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Half a million people in sub-Saharan Africa reached through StrongMinds’ innovative depression treatment

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Global Mental Health Action Network: Member's Blog

Half a million people in sub-Saharan Africa reached through StrongMinds’ innovative depression treatment

By Holly Elliott, StrongMinds


StrongMinds, a social enterprise with the mission of scaling free, highly effective depression services to low resource communities across Africa, has now treated depression in more than 100,000 women and adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa and changed the lives of their 400,000 dependents and family members.

The organization provides free group talk therapy to marginalized women and adolescents in Uganda and Zambia using IPT-G, the WHO- recommended intervention for low-resource settings. This work is especially critical now that the third wave of COVID-19 has caused unprecedented mental health impacts to many vulnerable African communities.

The benefits of depression treatment extend beyond the individual receiving direct care. StrongMinds estimates that for every woman who restores her mental health, an additional four people in her household feel the benefits, bringing the total number reached through StrongMinds services to an estimated 500,000. When a woman recovers from depression, data shows that her family eats more meals a day, her children go to school more often, and her household economic productivity increases.

StrongMinds therapy groups run for 10-12 sessions and are led by lay community mental health workers. Participants learn to identify the root causes and triggers of their depression and formulate strategies to overcome those triggers. Since depression is episodic and recurrent throughout most people’s lives, these newly acquired skills have both immediate and long-term preventive impacts for the sufferer. StrongMinds’ data also suggests that access to mental health services has a bolstering effect on new stressors, which may prove to be particularly helpful during the pandemic.

Approximately 66 million women on the African continent are experiencing depression, and due to lack of investment, about 85% of these women have no access to effective treatment. StrongMinds aims to change those statistics using their proven, cost-effective solution to the depression epidemic in Africa. The rigorously-tested group talk therapy model is delivered by trained community members, enabling StrongMinds to rapidly reach tens of thousands of people each year.

“Our impact and progress come from a place of responsibility and a recognition of vast need. If we don’t do this, no one will. We are driven by the inspiring stories of women who have recovered from depression through our therapy program,” said Sean Mayberry, Founder, and CEO of StrongMinds. “Many come to us in deep distress: they are overwhelmed, exhausted, and disengaged from life, with no access to treatment. In our therapy groups, they discover right away that they are not alone with their problems. They learn how to identify their feelings and triggers and talk openly about their problems with others. By the conclusion of therapy, most have begun to take practical steps toward a more hopeful future.”

StrongMinds partners with key players to help layer mental health services into existing programs and is the only organization offering a capacity-building approach to help other NGOs address mental health issues. The organization aspires to reach every woman in need of mental health services across the African continent and aims to provide treatment to 300,000 additional women by 2024.


You can learn more about StrongMinds' other work here