PARIS, September 19, 2022 -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- 10% of the African population, 110 million people, is affected by a mental disorder. However, mental health remains taboo, and access to care barely exists; on average, African countries spend less than 1% of their healthcare budgets on mental disorders1.
In April 2022, the Bluemind Foundation, an international non-profit organization chaired by Marie-Alix de Putter, launched “Heal by Hair”, the first movement of mental health ambassador hairdressers in Africa.
Recognized for being innovative and for its potential impact, the program receives funding of €227,396 (i.e., 149,171,776 FCFA) from the Fund for Innovation in Development (FID), chaired by the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics winner Esther Duflo.
Mental health in Africa: an alarming situation
In Africa, mental health remains underestimated, underfunded and ignored by public policies as evidenced by existing data :
- Africa has the highest suicide rate in the world2 (18 deaths by suicide per 100,000 inhabitants);
- 66 million women suffer from anxiety and depression on the mainland;
- It is estimated that one in seven children or adolescents faces significant psychological difficulties and that nearly 10% of them meet the criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis3 (study published in the scientific journal PLOS One in 2021);
- The majority of African countries have, on average, 1 mental health therapist per 500,000 inhabitants, which is 100 times less than the WHO recommendations4;
- Finally, less than 20% of the population would have access to mental health care.
“Heal by Hair”: helping 2 million women in twenty cities in Africa
- Improving the mental health and well-being of African women from the chairs of their hairdressers is the visionary concept behind the “Heal by Hair” program.
- “Heal by Hair” was born from a simple and audacious idea: hairdressing salons are key places of sociability in Africa where women relax and confide, e.g., 67% of women declared confiding to their hairdressers according to the study led by the Bluemind Foundation in 7 countries. Therefore, they are the ideal place to detect people with psychological distress and help them realize that they need to receive proper care.
- Based on cutting-edge research adapted to local contexts and confirmed by field data, “Heal by Hair” is a three-day training cycle. The content includes existing recommendations for mental health management and active listening. During the training, the hairdressers participate in role-playing to put themselves in a real-world situation and learn how to best interact with their clients. Ultimately, the training session aims at making professional hairdressers the first link in Africa’s mental health care chain.
- Launched in April 2022 in Abidjan (Ivory Coast), the 1st session allowed the certification of 22 hairdressers as mental health ambassadors out of nearly 250 applications received. “Heal by Hair” aims to train 1,000 hairdressers and support at least two million women in Africa by 2035.
Technical and financial support from the FID: An opportunity to accelerate the short-term development of the “Heal by Hair” program
Promoting, accelerating, and deploying on a large scale innovative solutions with high transformation potential, such is the vocation of the Fund for Innovation in Development (FID), (FID); which, follow- ing a rigorous selection process, has just granted the “Heal by Hair” program a stage 1 project fund- ing (€227,396) intended for “innovations at the beginning of their development and ready to be tested.”
These resources will be allocated to the training and capacity building of the 200 “Heal by Hair” am- bassador hairdressers and raise awareness among nearly 72,000 African women each year. In addition to the technical support of the FID, this financing will support the monitoring and assessment of the “Heal by Hair” program outcomes.
To make its application convincing, the Bluemind Foundation team had to provide the independent jury with a solid theory of change proving the potential impact of its proposed solution, a cost-effec- tiveness analysis, and a plan to scale the “Heal by Hair” program. Since the launch of its call for projects in 2021, only 37 innovations have been selected out of the 1,600 projects proposed to the FID.
“Heal by Hair” has also been honored as Africa’s Most Innovative Health Program and Women’s Empowerment Excellence Award 2022 by UK magazine Acquisition International.
“The Bluemind Foundation team is honored to be able to count on the support of the Development Innovation Fund in its fight for better mental health care for African women. It is not easy in Africa to talk about your mental health, depression, or emotional state because the simple fact of mentioning it is often stigmatized. It is time to open our eyes and act to put the mental health and psychiatric system in a position to face the situation in the long term. More than ever, the involvement of actors from the private and public sectors is essential to develop and sustain sustainable, innovative solutions for the African continent, especially for young people, who will be the priority of our future programs.” says Marie-Alix de Putter, President, and Founder of the Bluemind Foundation.
“The Bluemind Foundation team takes an unprecedented look at the crucial mental health issue, which could prove inspiring in many countries worldwide. With this financing, the FID aims to support the proof of impact approach that can help move from inspiration to action and extend the benefits to people who suffer from such disorders and the difficulty of treating them,” says Johanna Niedzialkow- ski, project team leader at the Fund for Innovation in Development (FID).
Distributed by African Media Agency for Bluemind Foundation.
About the Fund for Innovation in Development
The Fund for Innovation in Development (FID) was launched in December 2020 during the Presidential Development Council. This unprecedented and ambitious financing mechanism consists of stimulat- ing, accelerating, and deploying on a large scale innovative solutions with high potential for transfor- mation to meet the challenges of the fight against poverty and inequality and transform public devel- opment policies while supporting based on rigorous scientific evaluation and experimentation. Chaired by Esther Duflo, winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics, the FID is open to initiatives from all types of organizations. It promotes collaboration between innovation ecosystems, interna- tional solidarity, and research.
About the Bluemind Foundation
The Bluemind Foundation is an international non-governmental organization chaired by Marie-Alix de Putter, who founded it in July 2021 following her husband’s murder and her personal experience of post-traumatic stress, depression, and chronic anxiety. Our constant message is based on a strong conviction: mental health is health. With the ambition to make mental health a social, cultural, and political issue, the Bluemind Foundation’s mission is to de-stigmatize mental health and make care accessible to all. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Facebook : @Bluemind.Foundation
LinkedIn : @Bluemind.Foundation