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ResearchSummer School

“An experience like no other” – Wolfson Centre Summer School 2022

4 August 2022
Sidney Muchemwa Summer School 22

Sidney Muchemwa is a newly qualified Occupational Therapist and aspiring public health researcher based at the University of Zimbabwe. In this blog, Sidney shares his experience of attending the inaugural Wolfson Centre Summer School in Youth Mental Health Research.

On the 27th of May 2022, I was elated to hear that my application had been successful, and I had been offered a place to attend the inaugural Wolfson Centre Summer School in Youth Mental Health Research 2022. For a moment the surge of excitement vanished when I remembered I would be joining in virtually.

Travel certainly presents an amazing opportunity to experience a different culture and gain a fresher perspective of the world but, the opportunity to learn more about youth mental health research was more critical at this juncture in my life.

I am a newly qualified Occupational Therapist and aspiring public health researcher and given the high burden of mental disorders, what was most important was to further sharpen my skills to investigate, advocate for and deliver high-impact mental health solutions for my community, particularly the delivery of mental health services in low-resource settings.

The Summer School allowed me to broaden my perspectives on youth mental health. Several workshops were presented by world-renowned researchers in addition to the regular breakout sessions. What made the overall experience of this summer school so enriching was its participation-orientated format which facilitated discussions and debate amongst participants.

In one of the small group discussions, it was very interesting to hear from Dr Rhys Bevan-Jones and Dr Olga Eyre who gave me an insightful introduction to online mental health resources.

I got the chance to share more about my country’s existing mental health gap. I shed more light on the severe shortage of human resources for mental health, with an estimated 18 psychiatrists (17 of them in Harare) or approximately 0.1 per 100,000 population and 6 psychologists (0.04 per 100,000) as per WHO`s 2020 Special Initiative for Mental Health Situational Assessment in Zimbabwe.

These frightening statistics strengthened my resolve to learn as much as possible from this summer school. What gave me hope was the work of the Friendship Bench Zimbabwe whose evidence-based interventions proved that it was possible to solve any pressing challenge when guided by rigorous research.

Post-summer school, I am once again confronted with the prevailing mental health crisis. Zimbabwe has a high burden of HIV and mental disorders which desperately need to be addressed.

I am glad to have attended this summer school with my friend Tanatswa Chikaura, a fellow young Zimbabwean actively seeking knowledge for the betterment of our nation’s mental wellbeing.

Immense gratitude to the organizers of this year’s Summer School not forgetting my mentor Dr Jermaine Dambi for footing all my internet data costs and allowing me to experience the Summer School from the comfort of his pristine research lab at the University of Zimbabwe.

Should another opportunity to participate in future Wolfson Centre for Young People’s Mental Health initiatives present itself, I won’t hesitate to join and signpost it to all my African colleagues.

Wolfson Centre Summer School in Youth Mental Health Research 2022, an experience like no other!


Special thanks to Sidney for sharing his experience with us.



Twitter:  @SidaMuchemwa