OUR ORIGINAL TREATMENT PROGRAM:
From the beginning, our goal was the best means to combat the scourge of depression in a place where psychiatry is not a viable option.
After extensive research and analysis, we chose group interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT-G).
IPT-G is a simple and cost-efficient community-based model of depression treatment created by and validated by mental health experts. It fosters interpersonal relationships among groups of about 10, led by a facilitator over 16 weeks. After a successful Johns Hopkins University (JHU) a study in Uganda in 2002, and a 2003 Uganda study by Columbia University, the broader medical profession took notice.
“Group Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Depression in Rural Uganda,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003.
An IPT-G facilitator uses a structured model to help participants identify the causes of their depression, and set up strategies to overcome those triggers. Facilitators are not mental health professionals — just lay community members who have been trained by certified IPT-G experts over an intensive 2-week period.
After just 90 minutes a week for 16 weeks, progress is remarkable. Depression symptoms are reduced or eliminated in more than 90% of participants.
What is also remarkable about IPT-G is that participant monitoring is more rigorous than Western mental health professionals use, on average, with their patients. Unlike many individuals under psychiatric care in the United States, each woman is assessed by StrongMinds prior to starting, immediately afterward, and 6 months later.
[Link to SM-WEB-APPROACH-MONITORING (strongminds.org/approach-monitoring)]
IPT-G has lasting impact. A 6-month assessment after the initial randomized controlled study, and a second JHU trial in 2012, showed a continuing reduction in symptoms.
From January 2014 through February 2015, we implemented our own controlled IPT-G pilot study in Uganda. With a staff of six Ugandans — a country director, a mental health supervisor and 4 facilitators — we treated a total of 514 women in Kampala suffering from depression. Finding that the first group of women had maximum improvement by 12 weeks, we shortened the treatment period to 12 weeks for subsequent groups.
After 14 months, the program exceeded our expectations: Between 94 and 97% of the women treated reported a significant reduction in symptoms.