A digital community to break the stigma on mental health among adolescents in South-Africa

— RNW Media & HIVSA

WeCare is an initiative by HIVSA, RNW Media and New Momentum that seeks to champion mental health awareness and support among South Africa’s adolescents. By stimulating meaningful engagement with the topic on social media pages of the Choma community, WeCare aims to cultivate a culture of openness and well-being.

WeCare reflects a concerted effort to tackle the stigma on mental health by fostering informed and supportive online communities.  New Momentum contributed to WeCare before, during, and after the project. Insights on existing perceptions of mental well-being and how the topic was discussed within the Choma community guided the content strategy, community management, and campaign evaluation. This is how New Momentum ensured that RNW and HIVSA’s objectives for improvement and learning were met, making WeCare a centerpiece of mental well-being discourse within the Choma community.


Understanding public perceptions of mental well-being
Among South-African youth, the stigma associated with mental health poses a significant barrier to open discussion. WeCare embarked on a mission to normalize mental health conversations. Semantic analyses of social media content, comments and survey data provided a baseline understanding of public perception, which informed the development of a targeted content strategy aimed at engaging the youth in meaningful dialogue.
Semantic network showing how members of the Choma community defined 'mental health'. The size of the words is based on word frequency, links between words express the extent to which words are combined, and the colors highlight clusters of closely-connected words (topics). For example, the orange cluster seems to reflect a strategy of positive thinking to manage stressful situations.


Towards more positive perceptions of mental well-being
Guided by New Momentum’s findings, WeCare initiated a series of post and reels designed to resonate with young South Africans. By aligning content with the audience’s needs and preferences, WeCare managed to shift perceptions, encouraging a more positive and inclusive conversation around mental health. This strategic approach not only broadened the initiative’s reach but also deepened its impact, demonstrating the power of informed content strategy in driving social change.
WeCare -
Over time, words that reflect a more positive understanding of mental well-being (i.e., something that can be managed and be talked about) became more prominent in the social media comments. Also, community members shared strategies to cope with mental stress.


A new narrative for mental health
New Momentum’s research showed that WeCare managed to contribute to a shift towards more positive and empowering discussions about mental health among the target audience. New Momentum’s role in this initiative has been crucial in achieving measurable changes in public discourse, showcasing the tangible benefits of a data-informed approach to digital advocacy.