At least one in four women in Uganda suffers from mental health problems. Sometimes this results in them not sending their children to school, sometimes they have difficulty functioning at home or have conflicts with their husbands. By helping these women, not only do we improve their lives, but also those of their children and the community. And that’s what StrongMinds is committed to.
Across Africa, tens of millions of women are suffering mentally. The consequences are wide-ranging: their livelihood, their resilience, their well-being and their physical health deteriorate. Their children also suffer: they are less likely to attend school; their development is slower and they are at a greater risk of suffering from depression and other disorders. Sadly, few women have access to help. So, in 2013, StrongMinds jumped into that void by offering a very simple group therapy session that can be delivered quite literally under a village tree. Following its launch in Uganda – and then Zambia – StrongMinds will also introduce this now-proven (cost-)effective approach in other places. In Africa, but also in the United States, for example.
On the back of its success, the therapy has been adapted to include young people and refugees. Likewise, StrongMinds has now successfully introduced and developed Africa’s first phone-based therapy for depression. Thanks to the contribution from Dioraphte, group therapy was provided to 40,000 women (and young people) in 2022. The aim is that through the support groups, these women will also build a social support network. That helps them to build resilience and also stay free from depression after they leave. Locals will be trained to conduct group therapy sessions by themselves. This enables StrongMinds to branch out into a new field of activity over time. Since the start, about 210,000 people in total have been treated effectively.
Raising awareness on World Mental Health Day 2022
At the annual international World Mental Health Day on the 10th of October 2022, StrongMinds presented itself at the huge market in Kalerwe, Uganda. Charlotte Oolya: ‘We informed people about the signs and symptoms of depression. And we let them know that you’re not alone when you are struggling. This market is a great place to raise awareness about our work.’ The awareness event was part of an October series of activities to raise awareness about mental health issues. It included presentations across Uganda, a webinar on mental health as well as a symbolic walk around the Kyambogo University campus in the capital Kampala. Oolya: ‘It’s a great campaign for making mental health a national priority for all.’
Children return to school
The strength of the strategy lies in its ability to become firmly embedded in the local community and to fit in with existing structures. As a result, the approach is easier to implement in new locations, but it also has a more long-term benefit. During a work visit from Dioraphte, it emerged that all children from participants in a support group had returned to school. Their mothers had found ways of earning money, for example with a barbershop. Resolving mental health problems within the community builds lasting resilience in people. It’s a simple method with a major effect.