StrongMinds is a social enterprise founded in early 2013 whichprovides life-changing mental health services to low-income Africans. We are guided by an ambitious and unique goal of treating two million depressed Africans by 2020—restoring these mentally ill individuals and their families to healthy, productive, and satisfying lives. In future years, we will expand our services and treat additional mental illnesses in many African countries.
Mental illness is currently one of the most neglected health problems in low and middle income countries. By 2030, almost 20% of the global disease burden will be attributed to mental health issues. The most prevalent mental illness is unipolar depressive disorder, or more commonly known as depression. In Africa, approximately 100 million people suffer from depression, with women afflicted at twice the rate of men. For African women, depression is the number one cause of disability. Due to the lack of investment in mental health services in Africa, 90% of Africans with depression—including 60 million women—have no access to effective treatment.
Africans who suffer from depression experience extreme disability and wide-ranging negative outcomes. Depression is not a simple feeling of sadness, which diminishes after a few days. Rather, it is a debilitating illness, which disables more Africans than HIV/AIDS, cancer, or heart disease. This illness endures for many weeks or months and symptoms include extreme fatigue, inability to concentrate or make decisions, impaired functional levels, feelings of guilt or anxiety, and a general loss of interest in life. People who suffer from it are commonly adults in the prime of their lives. The impact on the life of an African woman suffering from depression is wide-ranging and severe: compared to her peers she is less productive, she and her children have poorer physical health and she endures family dysfunction and extreme social stigma.
StrongMinds implements an innovative, simple, and cost efficient approach to treat impoverished Africans who suffer from depression: group interpersonal psychotherapy (G-IPT) facilitated by lay community workers. G-IPT is a proven technique, with demonstrated success in Africa, that focuses on improving the interpersonal relationships of depressed group members. The therapy utilizes a structured model over 16 weeks to help group members identify and manage their interpersonal difficulties, ultimately reducing their symptoms of depression. Research has also demonstrated that G-IPT group members experience gains in productivity and health while their families and communities become stronger from the social support system created through the psychotherapy.
StrongMinds' first project is fully funded and will launch in Uganda in early 2014. In this effort, some 500 Ugandans who suffer from depression will be enrolled in our group psychotherapy sessions. We are currently seeking additional supporters to expand our efforts to improve the mental health of impoverished Africans. To learn more, please visit: www.strongminds.org.