Hairdressers as ambassador for mental healthcare

Bluemind Foundation proposes a solution to solve women’s mental health issues in Côte d’Ivoire. The intervention consists in training a network of first aid hairdressers, and form the first step in the mental healthcare chain.

Why take action ?

Mental health disorders are an important factor of marginalization, exclusion and impoverishment, but remain poorly or underdiagnosed, facing a lack of local care and excluded from public policies (OHCHR), partly due to the taboo character around it. Yet, these depressive disorders affect approximately 120 million people – 60% of whom are women under the age of 25 suffering from depression and anxiety.

Most African countries have an average of one psychiatrist per 500,000 people (compared to one per 5,000 people according to WHO recommendations). Only one in five African countries has a mental health policy and most spend less than 1% of their health budget on treatments for mental disorders.

Evidence-based implemented innovation

Heal by Hair program for hairdressers aims at enabling them to learn how to recognize first signs of mental disorders, or the aggravation of a pre-existing disorder, to demonstrate active and benevolent listening, and ultimately be equipped to adopt appropriate behavior and language and to be able to redirect their clients in pain to identified therapists.

The proposed pilot will consist of designing and structuring the training modules with mental health specialists; delivering three initial training sessions in Côte d’Ivoire to 200 hairdressers; capitalizing on this initial feedback in order to evolve and improve the modules; initiating the digitization of part of the training; and finally conducting a qualitative evaluation of the intervention.

Expected impact and key learnings

Heal by Hair aims to improve the mental health and well-being of African women as well as their communities through a trickle-down effect.

The ambition by 2035 is to create a network of 1,000 hairdressers active in 20 African cities. At term, the program should allow clients and hairdressers to:

  • Have a better knowledge of mental health disorders
  • Sensitize, beyond the clients, children and communities
  • Increase opportunities and income for the clients by a better management of their mental health and thus improve their socio-economic situation
  • Develop the entrepreneurial skills and activities of the hairdressers by an increase of their clientele
Photos: Bluemind Foundation

Presentation of the team

Bluemind Foundation is an international non-profit organization founded in July 2021 in France by Marie-Alix de Putter, president, and women from the Ivorian diaspora. The organization is made of three committees, which are composed of mental health experts in different african contexts.