StrongMinds is pleased to announce we have expanded our mental health services to Zambia. Working closely with Zambia’s Ministry of Health and other partners, we have recruited and trained eight Zambian Mental Health Facilitators who are providing depression treatment for over 1,200 women in 2019, with plans to serve many more in the coming years.
Our first therapy groups have convened in the high-density urban areas of Lusaka, which are referred to in Zambia as “compounds.” These areas are characterized by overcrowded housing, inadequate public services, limited access to water, poor sanitation, few healthcare facilities, and limited access to employment. The country has a very high population density and high levels of poverty. A 2018 UNDP report estimates that nearly 58 percent of the population in Zambia lives below the poverty line, earning less than $1.90 a day.
In Zambia (like many other countries in the region), the Ministry of Health has not historically tracked depression prevalence, and so data on depression is lacking. However, in May of 2019, StrongMinds conducted an initial screening of 1500 women in Lusaka and found depression rates as high as 25 percent, similar to what we have seen in Uganda. And yet, across the country, mental health services are sorely lacking; there is just one psychiatric hospital and a total of seven practicing psychiatrists for the 17 million people.
StrongMinds Zambia is led by Country Director, Frank Harle, an experienced professional in African development. Frank joined StrongMinds in 2018, working closely with our team in Uganda, and was instrumental in our selection of Zambia as our second country of operation.
StrongMinds will work with partners and Zambia’s Ministry of Health to address the mental health epidemic among urban and rural women. Our Group Interpersonal Therapy model enables women to identify their triggers of depression, share their experiences with others who are also suffering, and devise strategies to overcome their challenges. On average, 75 percent of women who participate in StrongMinds Therapy Groups are depression-free six months post-treatment.
The government of Zambia is committed to improving the mental health landscape in the country. In early 2019, Zambia instituted its most progressive mental health policy to date, setting the stage for mental health services to rapidly increase across the country. StrongMinds is thrilled by the opportunity to help the government meet its mental health treatment goals.4