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Health : Heal by Hair, a new initiative to support women

As part of its Heal by Hair project, a mental health first aid program, the Bluemind Foundation unveils a report of cross studies between African women and their hairdressers.

By Editorial staff

Mental health, a major social issue, is often poorly managed, with major depressive and anxiety disorders affecting women more than men. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 66 million women suffer from depression and anxiety disorders in Africa, and 85% of them do not have access to treatment. That situation has only worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic: according to a study published in early October in the British medical journal The Lancet, cases of depression and anxiety have increased by more than a quarter worldwide in 2020, due to the socio-psychological consequences of the coronavirus. “Sadly, for numerous reasons, women were always more likely to be worse affected by the social and economic consequences of the pandemic,” recalled co-author of the study, Alize Ferrari.

A report based on studies conducted in seven French-speaking African countries

In this context, the Bluemind Foundation-an international non-profit organization founded in July 2021-released on November 22 a report unveiling the results of cross-studies conducted with 714 women and 148 hairdressers in seven French-speaking African countries (Togo, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Benin, Mali, Senegal and Guinea) and among the diaspora in France. Entitled “Heal by Hair, Report of Cross Studies between African Women and their Hairdressers”, the document focuses on women, who are the primary victims of mental health disorders, mainly because of the physical and psychological violence they are exposed to daily. 

However, the distinctive features of the Bluemind Foundation’s work do not lie so much in the conclusion – the urgent need for collective and concerted action on mental health in Africa – as in the solution that is suggested, which is to include hairdressers in the care chain. The field surveys show that hairdressers who are first aiders in mental health are a confidence-building factor for African women: more than 6 out of 10 women trust a hairdresser who is a first aider in mental health, while 91% of the hairdressers interviewed said they were ready to be trained. 

“There should be no shame or fatality in mental health disorders. They are illnesses like any other: they can be prevented and cured” 

“If psychiatry has broken into my life and I have an intimate knowledge of it, I also know that there should be no shame or fatality in mental health disorders. They are illnesses like any other: they can be prevented and cured,” says Marie-Alix de Putter, Founder, and President of the Bluemind Foundation, who launched the initiative after the murder of her husband.  Today, she said she was “determined to change [this situation] by co-constructing innovative solutions with the first people affected.” Besides the three axes of recommendations made by the above-mentioned document (inform, raise awareness and destigmatize; prevent and mobilize; financing, training and organizing), the Bluemind Foundation has launched the Heal by Hair project, which is the first mental health first aid hairdresser movement in Africa. The project proposes a three-day program, inspired by the principles used by the international Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program, which is now recognized adapted and deployed in 28 countries. Like somatic first aid training, Heal by Hair training will allow hairdressers to become the first link in the care chain. In the end, the Bluemind Foundation aims to help improve the mental health and well-being of 5 million African women and train 1,000 hairdressers in 20 African cities by 2035. 

Download the full report “Heal by Hair, Report of Cross Studies, Bluemind Foundation, November 2021 »: https://bit.ly/32gx9Bj

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