StrongMinds and the Quest for Global Mental Health Accessibility

June 29, 2023 | | 0 Comments


In this episode, we dive into the story of StrongMinds, an innovative non-profit organization spearheaded by CEO Sean Mayberry. In our conversation with Sean, we explore the heart of StrongMinds – its mission to democratize mental health by making it accessible to everyone who needs it.

StrongMinds was born out of a clear need to combat the challenges of providing mental health services in Africa. Despite facing significant hurdles, including fundraising difficulties due to misconceptions about mental health, the organization has managed to turn the tide.

Discover the unique solutions StrongMinds has brought to the table. By transforming its programs into time-bound, quantifiable, and transactional services, it has successfully communicated its value to donors, achieving resounding success.

Immerse yourself in the compelling narrative of how StrongMinds harnesses the power of data. Through standard global diagnostic tools and diligent data collection at various stages of treatment, the organization guarantees quality and cost-effective services while continuously improving its talk therapy model.

Sean’s vision for the next decade is as inspiring as it is ambitious, encompassing global expansion and providing relief for millions grappling with depression. Learn about the expansion of their services to the US through StrongMinds America and their mission to reach every corner of the globe.

At the core of StrongMinds’ journey is a community. Listen as Sean reflects on his personal transformation over the last decade, emphasizing the invaluable role of teamwork in the success of the organization. This conversation shares the significance of community and collaboration in democratizing mental health.

To find out more, visit their:

Read Full Transcript

[00:00:11] Adam: Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast for social entrepreneurs who want to build a social impact business. I'm your host, Adam Morris, and so excited to explore mental health with our guest, Sean Mayberry, founder of Strong Minds, an organization dedicated to treating and preventing mental illness in Africa.

Since launching Strong Minds in 2013, he has continued to develop and expand access for cost effective group talk therapy throughout Africa. So let's dive in. Sean, welcome on the podcast.

[00:00:40] Sean: Thanks, Adam. It's great to be here.

[00:00:41] Adam: Can we start off, can you just tell us a little bit about what Strong Mind does?

[00:00:45] Sean: Yeah, the mission of Strong Minds is improve the mental health of women of all ages. Originally, that was just in Africa. You know, recently we've launched here in the United States as well, but at the end of the day, it's about improving the health of people on this planet who suffer from depression. We use a simple form of group talk therapy.

Which for us, we think is really scalable. It allows us to reach as many people as possible in a cost efficient way, which I think your listeners would understand, given all of the mental health access issues we have on our planet, you know, our approach is really an important one.

[00:01:15] Adam: It's affect people everywhere. I'd love to start off and just hear a little bit about your journey of , how you got to the idea, to start strong minds.

[00:01:23] Sean: Where did this come from? Right? Yeah. You know, it's funny, we, we just celebrated our 10th year anniversary, a couple months ago, so it's been an exciting first 10 years. I'm even more excited about the next 10 years. So how does one create a mental health organization in Africa?

Your mental health is not a common topic. Even now, 10 years later, we feel like we're, we're pretty much still like one of the only organizations kind of climbing this mountain, in Africa at least. For me, just a lot of, uh, life events and experiences contributed to it. Before founding Strong Minds, I had lived and worked in Africa for well over 10 years.

Raised my family there as well, and really during that time, um, I saw my, my African friends and neighbors and colleagues suffering from mental illness and having no access to care. So for me it was incredibly frustrating. When I was living in Africa, I was doing public health work, but I was also, I used to be a foreign service officer, so I was a diplomat for the state department.

So I had different roles, but regardless of the roles that I was in, there was just no way that I could help, my African friends and brothers and sisters suffering from mental illness. So that's something I had carried with me for years, just this huge, unmet need in Africa. Um, and then a lot of other contributing factors.

You know, I, I grew up in a family where my parents were both severely depressed, you know, at the time, as a child, I, that was normal for me. I didn't understand what they had. Uh, but looking back, I, I really see now. Just the, the difficulties in our family growing up, uh, with my parents, really not able to take care of us as well as others.

And even now as an adult with, a beautiful family, a wife, and children, I still have depression in my house today. So in many ways in my own personal life, I've had a, a front row seat to depression. So I really understand what it does to children and to spouses and to families and to that whole dynamic.

About 10 years ago, it's a funny story. I stumbled across an article in the New York Times talking about it. A successful test of a group, uh, talk therapy approach in Uganda for depression. First time that, any approach had been, successfully tested in Africa. Uh, at the time I was working in New York City.

The test, uh, the RCT randomized control trial came outta Columbia University. So I did what anybody would do. I, I ran down to Columbia University, kind of grab the researchers to understand, is this true? How did you do this? How's it so effective? And, that randomized control trial was 10 years earlier in 2002.

So my big question is why has nobody done anything about this in 10 years? I just instantly just saw in that article and the conversations with the researchers who have since become great friends and mental health mentors for me. Just, uh, the potential for a really impactful, scalable, cost efficient way to make a difference, on depression, the number one mental illness.

So long story, even further short, perhaps, or not so short, uh, I quit my job. I was a C E O at the time. Quit the job, started Strong Minds out of my lovely addict here in New Jersey. And 10 years later, we've treated over a quarter of a million people on this planet. So we're really grateful.

[00:04:13] Adam: That's fantastic. What was it like, starting an organization in Africa when, when you're based in New Jersey?

[00:04:21] Sean: Somewhat terrifying. Um, you know, there was a lot of advantages. I mean, having lived and worked there for over a decade, I was, I was very comfortable. I had a great network. I understood how things work there. Um, we launched in Uganda where the randomized control trial on therapy had been tested, so we knew it would work there.

Uh, I had worked in Uganda, so I had, a network of professional contacts, so a lot of the uncertainty I think we were able to mitigate. It was definitely difficult those first couple years. We didn't have a lot of funding. I was using, my retirement savings, thank God for IRA accounts, uh, to get it going.

Um, it was super stressful. Uh, cuz you know, we're testing a group approach to treating depression, uh, somewhat at scale, and we're really doing it by ourselves. Uh, a lot of the funders early on were understandably kind of on the sidelines waiting to see our results before they would fund us. It's that whole kind of, uh, chicken and egg , in any funding approach, be it if you're a for-profit or nonprofit, people want to see results before they really kind of take the gamble and invest in you.

The first few years. Yeah. Super stressful. Um, I always joke, if you want to test a marriage, you can quit your job, and launch a mental health organization in Africa to see how stable the marriage is. I'm still married, so and I'm the luckiest man in the world. Uh, but yeah, super stressful. But in, in hindsight, you know, risk and reward and, and for me, it wasn't about me.

It was about, I. How could we make a difference for, what we estimate to be at least 66 million women in Africa who suffer from depression? And, you know, the World Health Organization would tell you 85% of those women have no access to care. Having lived and worked there so long, I would tell you 99.99% have no access to care.

Um, so I'm grateful for that risk that I took, my family took, and, uh, my supporters, my friends, and now, the large team that we have that is Strong Minds.

[00:06:05] Adam: And one thing that's really interesting about your model is you've been able to deliver it in a very cost effective way. Can you describe a little bit like how that's come about, um, and how you've used volunteers and, and built that network?

[00:06:17] Sean: We're super data focused, you know, in, in another life I used to work at the Intel Corporation, so on the high technology side. So I'm really comfortable focusing on data and that's really some of the, our values here, uh, at Strong Minds. So early on, uh, we really made sure that we were laser focused on what we call cost per patient.

What does it cost us to find an individual suffering from depression and, and take them through that entire treatment kind of cycle, and to help them become mentally strong and to become what we call depression free. You know, in the early days with startup costs, our, our cost per patient, uh, was about 350, maybe, almost $400 back in 20 13, 14 15, uh, last year, uh, we got it down to about $77.

This year, our forecast is $58. Uh, it still needs to get lower. But when you think about it, for $58 this year, we're finding an individual depression, screening them, treating them, giving them the tools to overcome their current episode, but also to prevent future episodes, all for $58.

Uh, you know, when you think about here in the US what it costs for, like, psychotherapy, you know, generally, the average in the US is about 200, $250 an hour. Um, but we're able to do it at 58, uh, and we'll get it even lower, um, going forward. But yeah, at $58, it's because it, it's a group-based approach.

Generally, our, our talk therapy groups have anywhere from 10 to 12 individuals. So there's kind of an an, an economy of scale that's happening there. But also early on, we really focused on not necessarily delivering, the group talk therapy ourselves through our own staff employees. Um, but early on trying to understand how can we do this through volunteers, through people with lived experiences, those people who actually graduated from our groups.

And over the last eight years, we've become increasingly better at working with volunteers to deliver the groups. And these volunteers, many times have very limited education, low levels of literacy. But we've developed the expertise to find these individuals, train them, support them, coach them, and mentor them so that they can deliver the therapy.

And they do so again at, in, in a voluntary fashion. We do give them small amounts of money as incentives for when they submit data. So we're giving them a little bit of money, but ultimately they're doing it out of their own passion to help others. And through leveraging these volunteers, uh, and looking at the group approach, I think you could probably understand how that math really works to our advantage to get us down to the current amount of about $58.

[00:08:48] Adam: That's great. And so a lot of the volunteers have been through the program themselves.

[00:08:53] Sean: Yeah. A large number are, uh, graduates of our programs. Although in the last year, particularly in Uganda, we've made great strides at working , in their health system through the, the general term is community health workers. In Uganda, we call them v uh, vh ts. Um, so many of those volunteers now, uh, run groups for us without the lived experience.

Advantageously, these individuals, I'll call them community health workers for the generic term, for the listeners. Um, you know, they've been working in the community for years delivering health services, so they're passionate about wanting to improve the health, both mental and physical health of their communities.

And they've also just seen how depression has been an obstacle for them as they're trying to deliver other health services. So if they're trying to. Coach a mom on the advantages of immunizing a child or good nutrition in the house if that mom is depressed. The community health workers have certainly seen, um, how difficult it is to change the behavior of that mother because of the depressive symptoms.

So these, these community health workers are just so motivated to solve depression first because it makes the rest of their job easier. Um, and it just works so well for us to, well, you know, last year in Uganda, well, Uganda and Zambia combined, we treated. 107,000 individuals. Uh, thanks so much to these passionate, passionate, uh, volunteers.

[00:10:11] Adam: That's wonderful. Now you focus primarily on women. What's, what's the reason for that?

[00:10:17] Sean: We do, you know, in the early days there was a hundred percent focus on women in Africa, in our programs in Africa, where we work in Uganda and Zambia. Uh, primarily it's about an 80 20, uh, split now. So 80% female, 20% male. Uh, in the early days it was exclusively focused on female for a number of reasons.

One, globally depression affects women at twice the rate of men. And that's true everywhere. Uh, and there's no clear reason why that is, but it is the reality , but also in Africa, you know, typically, women are the backbone of the family. So for us, we decided early on that the greatest return on investment for Strong Minds, in terms of helping people become depression free, uh, gain, their mental, health would be focusing on women.

That's really where the greatest impact would come from. Now. If we had all the funding in the world, which we don't, because funding for mental health in Africa is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. If we had all the funding, we'd be treating men and women equally. Uh, but we didn't, and we still don't.

So we really have to make the hard choice of how do we maximize our impact. Uh, and it was by focusing on women in the last few years as we've started to deliver some of our groups, using the phone in teletherapy. We've, uh, started, to treat more men. Mostly because, uh, as we reach out to the community, we're doing lots of radio spots, et cetera, so anybody can call into our call center and get screened.

So men call in and, and we don't, uh, reject them or deny them, we engage them. Uh, but typically if we're out doing in-person groups, in communities where we are actually walking up to community members, typically we are focusing on women and as opposed to men, again, just to maximize our impact. It's a difficult choice to make, but I think most people understand why we do that.

[00:12:02] Adam: In general, like mental health is a topic that's kind of difficult to talk about, and I know there's a lot of barriers there. What's that been like in Africa? Just, just broaching that and bringing that up.

[00:12:12] Sean: That's a hard one. Right. Um, we have some advantages though because we, we do just focus on depression exclusively. The number one mental illness as I've mentioned. There's a different kind of stigma, uh, on depression because in Africa the awareness of depression is almost nonexistent. There's almost, if you follow that, thinking there's really not a big stigma against depression because people don't know what depression is to begin with.

But I call it more of like a silent stigma against depression. So, you know, Adam, if you're a depressed individual in Africa, and I'm coming up to you as a Strong Minds volunteer, um, you don't know about depression. You've never heard about it, but most likely if you've been suffering depression for weeks or months , you're your friends, your family, your social network, which is so important to you for your survival have probably, stopped being your friend, they probably excommunicated you, right? Because if I was your friend now, right? And I'm asking you for, for some help, can you watch my kids? Can you cook the meal? Uh, or something. But because you're depressed, you'll most likely say no because of the symptoms of depression. You can't really focus.

You're extremely tired. You have some anxiety. But me as your friend, I don't understand that that is depression talking. I just think perhaps you're too good to help me now. And then I'll ask again for another favor and you'll say no. And then over time the friendship breaks down.

Uh, and then you become isolated, from your social network, which really compounds depression. So it's more of a silent stigma against depression. I'm stigmatizing you, but I don't, I'm not doing it because of depression. I'm doing it because you're not really, acting or behaving, uh, in that typical kind of friendly or that social norm that I expect.

So in that way, it's not a, a strong stigma, but still we have to educate and help communities to understand what depression looks like, how maybe your neighbor is depressed, and how he or she may be acting and to understand it and to kind of create that groundswell, of understanding so that we can be more effective in the communities if what I just said all make sense to

[00:14:06] Adam: Yeah. No, that makes sense. So how do you engage with people to educate them if they don't even know they're depressed?

[00:14:13] Sean: In communities, in Uganda, Zambia, where we've been for years, it's much easier, right? You have that kind of baseline foundation of information you've created. You have groups that are operating, completing, graduating, and then you have graduates in the communities who then become referral points, help you define other individuals suffering from depression.

So it's quite easy at that point to get to that point is the hard part. If you're walking into a community that is brand new, where we haven't, we're Strong Minds, hasn't had any presence, it's a, it's a slow information building kind of process. We'll work through the local community leaders. There's not a great example in the us , a parallel of the, these community leaders, but it's almost like a mayor of a small area of, and a slum maybe, of like a city block.

You work through those community leaders to help them understand what depression is like. What the symptoms would be, what people in their, community, how they would be behaving, how if we help them overcome depression, their community becomes stronger. So we get the community leaders to really buy in and, and to create a vested interest.

Um, but then we're also just conducting small information sessions with 10 or 20 people in the community, educating them about depression. Typically, a depressed individual won't be coming to those gatherings because they tend to be more withdrawn. But by educating the general community members, they'll go home and maybe bring back to us the next day, their spouse or their neighbor who has the symptoms that they just learned about.

And then we start to run some groups. And then the groups will start to generate graduates, uh, and people in the community. And you can see how the wheels starts to turn and that awareness starts to build. And it gets to the point where, We Strong Minds can exit the community and we leave behind the volunteers, uh, who can run their own groups and we can simply do some coaching and support, with these volunteer leaders.

Uh, and a lot of times it's on phone because now we've become very good at building our own call center. So we can do this kind of at a geographical distance. And, and that's really how we're kind of leaving behind seeds of, of good, strong mental health in these communities as we move to other communities who need our help.

[00:16:17] Adam: That's awesome. And you expanded into some new countries this year, correct?

[00:16:22] Sean: Yeah. You know, we started in Uganda in 20 13, 14, and then we expanded over into Zambia in 2019. Uh, in the past year we've started working in other countries, not through direct country operations like we have in Uganda and Zambia, but by working with, uh, local partners in these countries where we can go and, and just a small team of two or three people and train local partners.

In our methodology, help them to start to learn how to run groups and then we leave the country, but still provide support at a distance. And we'll come back for follow up, visits. So we've started this program. Uh, we've really seen great progress in the last 12 months or so, where we started a program in South Africa, uh, Kenya, uh, Ethiopia.

We're optimistic. That may be before the end of the year, we'll be able to launch as well in Nigeria. So, uh, we're really feeling good about the, an expanding geographical reach on the subcontinent

[00:17:13] Adam: Oh, that's fantastic, so 10 years. I know time go goes by really fast, what have you seen a, as things that you've done really well, for growing, Strong Minds. Like what if you had to look back and pet yourself on the shoulder and be like, Hey, this is what we did, this is what we did really well , what are some of the things that have led to, your success?

[00:17:33] Sean: No, I love the question. No, thank you. Hindsight being so clear, you know, just some of the values we have at Strong Minds, it's all about, well, because we're really. One of the only mental health organizations in Africa trying to scale, a treatment for depression. We feel we put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

You know, we pretty much say if we don't do it, nobody else is going to. So that said, the values that, that we embody as an organization is about thinking big, acting fast, uh, literally is what we say. If you can see where I am, you can actually see the values behind my head on the wall here.

Um, thinking big, acting fast, really having audacious plans and moving as quickly as we can. We don't have time to sit around and ponder decisions and, think about something over and over and over. It's pretty much just act, make the decision and move as quickly as you can. So I think that's allowed us, to move more quickly.

We have continuously improved and iterated our talk therapy model over the last 10 years. When we started the model, it was at 16 weeks, almost $400 per person. Today we're at six weeks and we'll get down to, in the, into the $50 range. I think the listener could see over 10 years, the model has drastically improved.

And we plan further drastic improvements in the next few years as well. So we're not done, we're not sitting on our laurels. So I think the urgency that we have, the thinking big, the acting fast somewhat, I think can, separate us a little bit or distinguish us a little bit from maybe some of our social enterprise brothers or sisters.

Um, but that definitely has been a key for us. And I think just lots of flexibility. When we first started Strong Minds, we were thinking, how do we sell this to donors because we're entirely funded philanthropically. Yeah. We thought we'd be selling that we treat depression, we help people become depression free.

We quickly learned that most donors, that support us. Are less interested in mental health, but they're more interested in what good mental health leads to, uh, you know, because when someone's no longer depressed, they go back to their kids, go back to school, income rises in the house, nutrition improves.

So a lot of our donors love the fact that , we're overall reducing poverty, uh, by creating good mental health. So they see good mental health in our depression treatment as a means to an end. And so that's just helped us to think about and communicate differently that yes, we treat depression, but understanding that for the donors, how do we speak in, in their terms of what's most important to them.

And luckily, you know, depression is such a leverage point, you know. Once an individual is depression free, as I said, there's so many knock on, positive benefits. We're then able to really kind of sell our services, if you will, to many donors because, you know, being depression free leads to so many other positive outcomes.

So that, that's another learning, I think, where it's helped us just change our, our kind of our communication, our fundraising pitch, if you will.

[00:20:15] Adam: You mentioned earlier that one of your strong points, is data collection. Right? And this need to actually share what you're doing. Um, how has that come into play with, mental health?

[00:20:29] Sean: It's huge. You know, we, we are obsessive about the data collection. You know, we use one of the, the standard global diagnostic tools to screen for depression and individual. You know, if you were coming into one of our groups, Adam, we would screen you twice before the group, three more times during the group, and probably one to two more times after the group.

So we'll have anywhere from six to eight data points, uh, measuring you. If you look at, um, the typical mental health professional in the United States. Only 20% of the mental health professionals in the US ever measure for depression. They will just diagnose you. It, it's like diagnosing you with high blood pressure, but without ever measuring your blood pressure.

I don't know how would they do it in the United States? But we collect the data and that helps us to understand, uh, and maintain quality. It helps us to reduce group length from 16 weeks to six weeks, because we have the data that shows us, um, if you, if we reduce too quickly or reduce a certain part of the program, we see the impact on the data, on the scores.

So we can instantly , respond to that. So being data informed has allowed us to move a lot more quickly. It's allowed us to reduce costs, and maintain the quality. Um, so it is such a, it is so in our d n A about having the data, having the numbers, uh, allowing us to run a great program, we're really glad that, we started that way 10 years ago.

[00:21:51] Adam: And did you start that when, right in the beginning when you launched?

[00:21:55] Sean: When I was the founder, uh, and really launching alone just that data focus coming from Intel, but also having worked at other social enterprises and understanding that donors like to see a quantifiable impact. They like to see number of mosquito nets, distributed condoms, distributed shots, uh, you know, immunizations process, things like that.

So we right at the beginning were like, how do we. Structure a mental health program that makes it very clear for donors what those deliverables are to treat, uh, patients treated, cost per patient, so that we're able to go to donors and kind of say, for this amount of money, you know, we can treat this amount of patients.

We're making it very quantifiable, very transactional. And that was important as well because when you look, and we still run across this now 10 years later, there's a lot of donors in the philanthropic space who, think that mental health interventions, um, Shouldn't be supported or that they're too expensive and they're too lengthy.

And they're not really quantifiable enough. And so we designed a program 10 years ago that tried to approach, tried to counter all those beliefs that we could make it time bound. We could guarantee you patients treated. We could show you the numbers. And we talk in a very simple, kind of lay friendly way, right?

We talk about depression free as opposed to. The more technical term of, you know, reducing an individual's depressive symptoms to the level that they can no longer be diagnosed with depression on the PHQ nine, which is a mouthful, right? Depression free. So we talk in a simple way so that the donor, any donor we come across can understand what we're doing, can understand, um, the value of that potential investment, which is changing an individual's life.

[00:23:32] Adam: So when you've run into this barrier with, with donors who are like, Hey, you know, I don't wanna talk about this, or I don't want to, you know, support mental health. Like, how do you broach that conversation and actually change the change that.

[00:23:45] Sean: We've won some and we've lost some, uh, there are some donors I've known for 10 years who still just put up their hand. We don't support mental health. Look at the Gates Foundation, right? I think it's the biggest philanthropic, uh, private organization on the planet. They do not support mental health. Full stop. Now, if they supported mental health, you'd have a lot of smaller foundations who would follow their lead and begin to do that because you have the biggest philanthropic foundation on the planet, not supporting mental health. That is a huge obstacle, not just to strong minds, but to all mental health organizations.

But we've had a number of foundations where they don't support mental health, but then we explain to them what we're doing, the impact. Um, And they've come around and a number of foundations who support us today, if you look at their website, mental health is not mentioned in any of their strategic documents.

For example, they've come around to it because they, they believe in our impact, and now they can see our numbers. You know, a quarter of a million people treated a million family members who live better lives. All of that supported with data becomes a pretty compelling kind of argument, if you will. So for us, it's about being tenacious.

It's about helping people understand what we're doing in that simple language. As I mentioned. But some donors don't come around. Some still, as I've mentioned, just put up their hand and say, we're, we're not gonna fund mental health. Um, but that's their choice. You, you can't win all of them. But for us, it's been a fun journey of modifying, our message, uh, and just helping people understand why mental health is such a great, uh, investment and proving that with numbers.

[00:25:14] Adam: So, we looked at some of the things you've done really well. Are there there any mistakes that you made along the years which are like, Hey, I wish I had known about X and done something different.

[00:25:23] Sean: Yeah, no, we haven't made any mistakes. No, I'm kidding. No, uh, no, definitely. You know, uh, when we look back on it, I think we could have moved even more quickly to have gone from 16 weeks to six weeks, not over 10 years. Uh, but in a smaller timeframe, we could have reduced our costs faster.

I mean, that was probably one of the big things. When we look at our expansion from Uganda into Zambia in 2019, which has been such a success, you know, I really wish we had done that many years earlier. Um, we've been in Zambia now, uh, almost, uh, four and a half years. You know, this year we plan to launch into a third country.

If I could do it again, we would've gone into a third country much earlier as well. Cuz right now Uganda kind of covers East Africa, uh, Zambia, South Africa. We're not in West Africa. So the third country would be in, the western side. I wish we had started there earlier. Many other things.

I'm all about just looking forward, and just figuring out the, the next few years. But yeah, certainly there, you know, we're not perfect and, and I'm not perfect. There's lots of things, other things we could have done better as well.

[00:26:20] Adam: As you, you look forward, what's what's on your vision for Strong Minds?

[00:26:24] Sean: Oh my God. I am so excited about the next 10 years. I feel like this first 10 years with this amazing team of 250 people that we have at strong Minds, that we've built such a foundation, we have such a strong model, and now over the next 10 years, we can really get this model out, in the sense of treating.

I. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and then millions of individuals. Um, so I'm so excited what we can do in the next 10 years, leveraging our first 10 years of knowledge, but ultimately at the highest level. For us, it's really about Strong Minds becoming a global organization, right? It, it's not just about the Africa focus.

And we started that last year when we started, uh, work here in the United States through a program that we call Strong Minds America, where we're launching our group talk therapy here. We are literally exporting our model from Uganda to the United States, and that is step one. There's unfortunately on planet earth, there is a huge need for depression treatment in every corner of our globe.

And for strong minds, we feel that we've developed and continue to develop, some of the most impactful in terms of effectiveness and cost effectiveness, depression treatment programs. And that is our responsibility to get these out, everywhere on the planet. Yeah. We really work under the, the approach that, we are democratizing mental health.

We're taking it away from , the limited hands of doctors and nurses, many of whom aren't really trained, at least on the Africa side or who are trained in the United States, but just there aren't enough of these individuals. We're taking it out of their hands and really giving it to the individuals that, at the community level, it's about democratizing it.

We feel there are simple ways to treat depression that we've developed and proven in the last 10 years, and now our job is to get these out to communities so that individuals suffering with depression can, can solve their issues and become depression free and mentally strong. So for us, the next 10 years is about globalizing more.

Getting this model out there to the literally hundreds of millions of depression sufferers in our world.

[00:28:21] Adam: That's exciting. Well, especially now that you've really refined a model

[00:28:25] Sean: yeah.

[00:28:26] Adam: How has this transformed you personally over the last 10 years?

[00:28:29] Sean: Oh, wow. That is a good question. I don't think I've ever been asked that question. Um, how has it transformed me? I've just had so many learnings When I, when I look at strong minds, uh, you know, I, I, I've been around a bit. I'm 56 and I've worked in other organizations, but I think the transformation for me is more just the learning and the understanding of just how important the team is.

We have such a strong team and I think back to the early days of strong minds when it was me alone in my attic, uh, and now I have 250, staff members and, tens and hundreds of stakeholders, funders and others who care about us and help us. For me, the transformation is more just, just really learning and understanding and valuing even more just, the importance of, of community myself, for strong minds that we can't do it alone.

I'm just back from Zambia. I was with the team there all last week and I was sitting down with them on Friday before they got on a plane and hearing about all the great work and the tens of thousands of depression sufferers are treating this year. And I ran around the table and I asked them all , and these are my, my Zambian brothers and sisters who are running groups for us.

And I asked them, um, how many depression sufferers do you think I Sean, has treated, in 10 years at Strong Minds? And they were throwing out numbers like, oh, 3,300, you know, somebody said like, 30,000. And this one woman who I've known for years looked at me and she's like, zero. And it is zero. And and that's why I asked them, and cuz I've never treated an individual.

We, you know, we do treatment in Africa from African to African. You know, we, we can't, can't envision a westerner delivering treatment. We don't have the cultural context. We're just not the right person. It's unthinkable. And I was asking that question just to help them to understand that. I, as the C and founder have treated zero, but yet I still like to think I have an important contribution to the organization and just really trying to highlight for them , the importance of the team that we all do this together.

And that even if you're not treating patients at Storm Minds, you have an important function, be it if you're a fundraiser or in the admin finance or if you're driving a car for us to get us out in the middle of nowhere. So I'm all coming back to the transformation for me is just, just understanding so much more deeply the importance of the team, and it's kind of that whole kind of the African approach of it takes a village. Um, but it's really hammered home for me, in my decade here at Strong Minds.

[00:30:39] Adam: That's neat. I love that. Well, thank you so much. For people who are listening, how can they get involved and support Strong Minds?

[00:30:46] Sean: Oh, we love your support in anyway. You know, I always say delivering mental health in Africa is the easiest part. The hard part is raising funds for mental health in Africa because we're not, not, not highlighted a lot in, in the lists of, of needs. But if you're interested in learning more about strong minds, you can go to www dot strong

Learn more about our work, here and read some of the amazing success and, and life changing stories that we've done. Meet the team, and find out other ways there on our website, how you can get more involved. And, and we'd, we'd love your, your involvement.

[00:31:18] Adam: Fantastic. And if there are people in Newark who are suffering from mental health issues, and they wanna connect,

[00:31:25] Sean: Yeah.

[00:31:25] Adam: best way for them to do that?

[00:31:27] Sean: Yeah. Strong Minds America. So we're, we're entirely focused in New Jersey right now, but launching into New York State at the end of this year. Um, anything that you'd like to know about our work in the United States with Strong Minds America? You can find us at www strong Minds Uh, and find out ways that you can get involved.

We're so excited on the America side, uh, to be beginning our program here. You know, it's interesting, Adam, I think as we probably wrap up here, you know, in the 10 years at Strong Minds, it feels like thousands of individuals in the US reaching out to me.

Wow, that's a great program I've read about in Africa and Strong Minds. But what are you doing here in rural Iowa? Or what are you doing here in Alaska to help the populations? And for so long my answer was, well, we actually don't have the ability or the funds or the bandwidth. Uh, and now I'm so excited that we're able, to do our important work here in the US as well as part of our, our globalization.

So it's really exciting.

[00:32:14] Adam: That is awesome. I love to see that, that grown, expand, and especially in a topic that's difficult for people to talk about, just making it available in a way that breaks that down.

[00:32:24] Sean: It is, and again, that's, it goes to that democratization, right? Making it available. Talked about accessible, and making it simple. And that's really, I think, has been the key to our, our success at Strong Minds for the first 10 years and will continue to drive us for the next 10.

[00:32:39] Adam: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining me today, and sharing about strong minds.

[00:32:43] Sean: Thanks, Adam. What a pleasure. I real, I'm really grateful.

[00:32:46] Adam: And if you're listening, go visit and, and get involved.

Follow People Helping People on

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.