StrongMinds: Tackling Mental Health in Africa

Categorized as: , , , & Tagged as: on December 16, 2017. Related Grantee: StrongMinds.

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 Brienne-Skees By Brienne Skees, Program Officer and VP of Research and Data Management

Editor’s Note: Hello, all, and happy holidays! For this blog post, we decided to highlight one of our brand new, incredibly effective partners, StrongMinds. I wanted to quickly issue a warning for the content below: it pertains to suicide. I know the holidays can be an excruciating time for those impacted by this, so please be advised. If you or anyone you know is feeling like they can’t handle this holiday season, there is always someone out there who is willing and able to help.

The Skees Family Foundation began working with StrongMinds, a mental-health education program, this year. Our relationship was not a typical one for us, and the story of how we got to know them follows . . .

As many of our readers know, this year the Skees Family Foundation began a Generational Grants program. In this program, each generation (we currently have three) gets an allotment of funds to give to one or two mission-related grantees. The program was designed to bring the family together and give engagement opportunities to anyone in our family who wanted to participate.

Our third generation hard at work, deciding on which grantee(s) we wanted to select

What most of you don’t know is that our family suffered a terrible loss this year. One of our sons/cousins/nephews, 21-year-old Jonah Skees Hinman, took his life after a long battle with depression.

For those of you who have had a similar experience, you know how helpless you can feel; how you want to do something to help those who were left behind, but at a loss as to what you can do; how you want to be able to do something, anything, to honor the one you lost.

Our entire family felt this way. So, we decided to incorporate our grief and sense of loss into our grantmaking. It sounds very depressing, I know! But something beautiful came out of it. The third generation went out in search of a nonprofit that was mission-related (poverty alleviation through education or job creation), but with a focus on mental health. Along came StrongMinds!

StrongMinds was founded in 2013. They provide mental health services to impoverished African women, currently in Uganda, but with the aim of expansion. According to StrongMinds, depression is the number one disability in adult African women, as 1 in 4 African women suffer from it. StrongMinds wanted to tackle it. They show people that depression is a huge obstacle to development, mainly because many programs designed to eliminate poverty are undermined by depression.

StrongMinds answers the question, “Why depression in Africa?”

So, they came up with an affordable, scalable, peer-led therapeutic model: a twelve-week program in which women who suffer from depression attend group therapy sessions with a trained facilitator who helps members identify the root causes and triggers of their depression. The group members learn from the facilitator how to mediate these sessions on their own, and most groups (around 80%) continue to meet and support each other, and others, after the facilitator leaves.

A photo from a group therapy session in late 2017

They have already done such amazing work, having treated over 25,000 women in only four years.

We only wish our family, and so many others around the world, could have access to a resourceful, safe space in which to learn to lean on one another during times of despair.

This holiday season and always, we wish you and your loved ones, health and peace.

All media content was obtained from the StrongMinds Facebook page and website.

LEARN more about StrongMinds and their mission to conquer depression in Africa here.

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DONATE directly to provide mental health resources to impoverished women in Africa, here.

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