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Monday, June 24, 2024

The Ivory Coast hairdressers tackling a psychological well being disaster


When Marie-Alix de Putter’s husband was murdered in Cameroon 12 years in the past, her hairdresser was by her aspect to ease the ache of grief. De Putter was 4 months pregnant and have become deeply depressed, however the energy of her relationship along with her hairdresser – alongside in depth psychotherapy – gave her the power and emotional assist “to remain alive”, de Putter recollects.

Impressed by her expertise, she based Heal by Hair, an initiative that has educated round 150 hairdressers throughout Togo, Ivory Coast and Cameroon in west Africa to counsel their purchasers – all whereas getting their hair, nails and facials accomplished. Not like in Europe, the place ladies have a tendency to go to their salons much less continuously, many African ladies recurrently spend hours getting their hair washed and braided.

“The most important problem was to persuade the hairdressers of their worth,” de Putter says. “They didn’t imagine me once I instructed them what they do is essential for his or her neighborhood.” But typically, they’re the one supply of assist.

Nowhere on this planet is the so-called ‘psychological well being hole’ wider than in Africa. Between 85% and 95% of individuals with extreme psychological well being situations don’t have entry to any sort of care. In the meantime, the World Well being Group classifies Africa because the area with the best suicide fee globally, accounting for about 75% of worldwide deaths by suicide. Amongst younger folks on the continent, it’s the second commonest explanation for loss of life, following highway site visitors accidents.

“It’s a disaster for the way forward for Africa”, says Prof Taiwo Lateef Sheikh, psychiatrist on the College of Ahmadu Bello College in Nigeria and college member at Harvard Medical Faculty. When younger folks drop out of the workforce due to psychological sicknesses “it’s killing our collective existence”.

Whereas males extra typically die from suicide, ladies undergo the vast majority of circumstances of melancholy. However in a area that solely has 1.6 psychological well being staff per 100,000 folks – the worldwide median being 13 – neither have ample entry to any sort {of professional} care whereas navigating a psychological well being disaster.

That’s the place community-led tasks like de Putter’s step in. In her small salon subsequent to a busy avenue in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s financial hub, Ariatou Ouédraogo washes a shopper’s hair. Two followers spin the humid 34-degree air across the pair. Dozens of doll heads and wigs line the partitions, every staring in a unique course. “I actually wish to go away,” the shopper says whereas making eye contact with Ouédraogo within the mirror in entrance of her. “I simply can’t stand being married to him any extra. I undergo an excessive amount of.” Her eyes are pink, the pores and skin beneath swollen.

Ouédraogo acquired the title of psychological well being ambassador after a three-day coaching course led by the nonprofit Bluemind Basis. She realized to identify delicate indicators of misery and the right way to ask open-ended questions that encourage folks to open up. A lot of her purchasers consult with ‘family points’, which frequently together with emotional and bodily violence, marital issues or substance abuse.

In Ivory Coast, there’s little consciousness of the advantages of remedy. It’s too costly for a lot of the inhabitants and nonetheless carries quite a lot of stigma and worry of social exclusion. Whereas the WHO recommends a ratio of 1 therapist per 5,000 folks, the coastal nation solely has 50 for its inhabitants of greater than 29 million. In the meantime, many Ivorians proceed to battle within the aftermath of the nation’s two brutal civil wars. Inflation, a scarcity of jobs for younger folks, drug and alcohol abuse and the influence of the local weather disaster all contribute to the psychological well being disaster. Ivory Coast has one of many highest suicide charges on the continent.

Whereas hairdressers and comparable community-led initiatives are restricted to offering fundamental assist and first help, they make up a vital pillar to handle the continent’s psychological well being hole. “We’re beginning with zero”, notes Prof Lateef Sheikh, who advises governments to reform their insurance policies and laws to enhance their psychological well being techniques. “So, coaching psychological well being champions is a very essential half”.

“That is the one place I can go to,” Ouédraogo’s shopper says. “With out Ariatou, I wouldn’t know what to do.” A lot of her purchasers have now develop into ‘sisters’ who go to the seashore or train collectively – methods to assist preserve their psychological well being in examine.

De Putter plans to additional broaden her undertaking throughout west Africa and past, even to Spain, Portugal and France. In the meantime, her Ivorian psychological well being ambassadors are spreading their data in and out of doors their salons.

Growing psychological wealth is a collection produced by Constructive Information and funded by the European Journalism Centre, by way of the Options Journalism Accelerator. This fund is supported by the Invoice & Melinda Gates Basis

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