Study Looks at Lowering Depression Worldwide

While those of us in therapeutic practice consider it important that depression sufferers receive help from a trained mental health professional, we also recognize that these services are not easily available in many parts of the world.

In my mind, it’s doubtful that those without our years of study and experience can offer the same level of care that can lead to personal transformation. But, when there is no alternative, the method explained in a recent New York Times article is worth our interest.

The author, Tina Rosenberg, describes a program underway in rural Rawalpindi, Pakistan. It’s called the Thinking Healthy Program where basic cognitive behavioral therapy is taught for only two days to female community health workers with a high school education. The trainees, called Lady Health Workers integrate what they have learned into their regular visits with pregnant women and new mothers. (I was pleased to see this focus as it can address the number of women suffering from Postpartum Depression.)

In Rawalpindi and Goa, Rosenberg reports that researchers are shifting the Thinking Healthy Program –financed by the N.I.M.H. –from community health workers to minimally trained peers.

In both places, mental health professionals are recruiting and training local women with levels of education similar to those of the depressed mothers they will work with. So far, results are impressive: one week after the sessions ended, 94 percent of the women no longer had depression.

Interestingly, villagers didn’t have a clinical diagnosis for their depression, instead calling it witchcraft or laziness. “Stress, of course, is overwhelming for these women,” the study reported, “but they have little sense they should or could seek relief. Women in Africa and South Asia care for others. They do not spend valuable time taking care of themselves.”

The researchers also point out that peers can’t do everything in mental health. “They are valuable, but must complement professionals, who are needed to diagnose and treat more serious illnesses and, in many cases, depression.

“But peers can do a lot. The therapy groups offer confidential social support — a place for women to understand they have a disease shared by many others, and to talk about their problems without fear of gossip.”

See my article in Motherhood – Pakistan’s First Parenting Magazine (


~ by ppdsus on December 20, 2014.

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