Treating women’s depression
Mental health is the most neglected health problem in the developing world, and depression the single most prevalent mental illness. In Africa, it affects 1 in 23 women, the overwhelming majority of whom have no access to treatment. StrongMinds has stepped in to try and fill the gap with a simple, evidence-based and cost-efficient model of group talk therapy that focuses on women with depression in poor communities. Already active in Uganda, StrongMinds has successfully started replicating its model in Zambia in 2019 and aims to treat over 8,000 women there in the next three years.
Depression is probably one of the most neglected problems in the entire developing world. The lack of awareness around mental health issues – and an enduring stigma attached to them – means most people are unlikely to recognise the symptoms and seek treatment. If and when they do, mental health services are sorely lacking. In Zambia there is just one psychiatric hospital with a staff of seven practicing psychiatrists for a population of 17 million people.
StrongMinds trains community workers to become mental health facilitators and lead group talk therapy sessions for women with depression in poor communities, where the prevalence of depression is as high as 30%.
StrongMinds’ unique, simple, evidence-based and cost-efficient model of group talk therapy focuses on women and includes:
- The recruitment, training, supervision and mobilization of mental health facilitators
- The screening and enrolment of 10-15 women in weekly 90-minute group therapy sessions for 12 weeks
- The support of the participants to establish trust, identify the triggers of depression, share strategies to overcome their depression symptoms and build long-term resilience.
Between 2018 and 2019, StrongMinds replicated the model it had developed in Uganda, applying it in Zambia with such success that it is now poised to become the mental health technical advisor of the Zambian National Ministry of Health.
In the next three years, StrongMinds intends to scale its model through partnerships and progressive integration in the Zambian national health system. The objective is to treat over 8,000 women.
StrongMinds is scaling its model incrementally by working with medium-to-large international NGOs and the national health system. Leveraging these partnerships, StrongMinds is able to reach more women with depression while replicating its model in new settings. In addition, its model enables women who have successfully completed their Group Therapy sessions to be trained to lead their own Peer Therapy Groups, substantially multiplying the impact.
StrongMinds’ vision is to treat and improve the lives of 2 million women with depression by 2025.