A placard on the shop window of an African hairdressing salon in Berlin. Hairdressers don't only cater to the beauty of their customers but also their mental health, according to the new study/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

African hairdressers act as mental health first aiders, new study shows

Women and mental health in Africa: as part of its signature Heal by Hair program, the Bluemind Foundation unveils a report of cross studies between African women and their hairdressers

Lomé, Douala, and Paris, November 22, 2021,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- 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. Indeed, only one in five African countries has a mental health policy, and most of them devote less than 1% of their health budget to treating mental disorders. Thus, in societies where mental health is taboo, health care personnel are insufficient, and resources are limited, the importance of finding contextualized solutions appears to be an urgent necessity.

In this context, the Bluemind Foundation unveils the results of cross-sectional studies conducted with 714 women and 148 hairdressers in seven French-speaking African countries (Togo, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Benin, Mali, Senegal, and Guinea) and with the diaspora in France. This Report 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.

The conclusions of the Heal by Hair Cross-Study Report demonstrate the urgent need for collective and concerted action on mental health in Africa. It also appears that by being audacious, creative, and innovative, by considering the uniqueness of African societies, and, above all, by including all stakeholders in the care chain, it is possible to provide an effective, sustainable solution with a strong social impact.

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, and 91% of hairdressers are ready to be trained.

“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.

“The facts are there. So are the numbers in the field. Everyone should have access to quality mental health care. But for 66 million women in Africa, this is not the case. We are determined to change this by co-constructing innovative solutions with the first people affected. This is also the perspective behind the ten recommendations of the Heal by Hair Cross-Study Report, which aim to lay the foundations for a collective approach that will bring hope and lasting change.”

To download the full report “Heal by Hair, Cross-Study Report, Bluemind Foundation, November 2021”: https://bit.ly/32gx9Bj

© African Media Agency (AMA)

About the Heal By Hair Signature Program
Heal by Hair is the first mental health first aid hairdresser movement in Africa. A short and innovative three-day program based on cutting-edge research, comprehensively reviewed and adapted to the local context, Heal by Hair is inspired by the principles used by the international Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program, which is now recognized adapted and deployed in 28 countries. Concerned with basing our action on the cultural and social realities specific to the African context, the Heal by Hair program proposes an innovative approach to mental health, mobilizing a network of professional hairdressers. Like somatic first aid training, Heal by Hair training will allow hairdressers to become the first link in the care chain, not health professionals.
Through the Heal by Hair signature program, the Bluemind Foundation aims to help improve the mental health and well-being of 5,000,000 African women and train 1,000 hairdressers in 20 African cities by 2035.

About the Bluemind Foundation
Bluemind Foundation is an international non-profit organization founded in July 2021 and chaired by Marie-Alix de Putter after the murder of her husband and her personal experience with post-traumatic stress, chronic depression, and anxiety. Our constant message is based on a firm conviction: mental health is health. With the ambition of making mental health a social, societal, cultural, and political issue, the Bluemind Foundation’s mission is to destigmatize mental health and make care accessible to all.

The Bluemind Foundation is headquartered in Lomé (Togo) – with offices in Douala (Cameroon) and Paris (France). The Bluemind Foundation relies daily on the expertise of African and international personalities, united around a common vision.

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