Hearing the Unheard: Unsilencing Mental Health Struggles in the Global South with MENDIS

Hearing the Unheard: Unsilencing Mental Health Struggles in the Global South with MENDIS

In the labyrinth of struggles that marginalized women in the Global South navigate, mental health remains a silent specter. Statistics reveal a harrowing landscape: approximately one in five women in post-conflict settings suffer from depression, double the global average. Moreover, the prevalence of intimate partner violence—a significant contributor to mental distress—can be as high as 70% in these regions.

It is within this context that the Audiopedia Foundation, in collaboration with CorrelAid and Aurat Raaj, has pioneered MENDIS.app—a testament to the transformative power of open-source innovation for mental health screening.

MENDIS: A Framework for Empowerment

MENDIS (Mental Distress Application) is not just a survey tool; it's a lifeline, crafted to surmount the barriers of illiteracy and remote living through the innovative "Augmented Audio" (AUMA) framework. This lightweight, open-source software enables the creation of interactive, audio-based learning content and surveys, optimized for smartphone use.

Our pilot project in rural Pakistan was revelatory. Conducted in collaboration with Aurat Raaj, the MENDIS survey harnessed the WHO's Self Response Questionnaire (SRQ-10) to glean insights into the mental health of women in these underserved communities.

The survey's design facilitated not only the collection of crucial data but also sparked a dialogue—women reflected, engaged, and learned from the content. In a setting where written words may fall on blind eyes, the spoken word brought enlightenment.

Theory of Change: A Strategic Blueprint

The included Theory of Change diagram encapsulates the methodology and aspirations of the MENDIS initiative. From the outset, activities like the AUMA survey aimed to elevate the knowledge of mental health among beneficiaries, fostering reflective spaces for internal dialogue and learning.

MENDIS Theory of Change

This diagram illustrates the envisioned journey from these initial activities to long-term outcomes and ultimate impact: building NGO capacity to support the mental health of communities and beneficiaries. It’s a blueprint for progress, from the individual empowerment to organizational proficiency.

Challenges and Learnings

The pilot revealed as much about the challenges as it did about the potential. True impact requires seamless integration of technology into existing support frameworks. Users' digital literacy, understanding of the tools, and trust in the system's confidentiality are paramount. Our local partners’ role in contextualizing the tool and fostering trust proved invaluable.

In Pakistan, where the project laid its roots, we uncovered a pressing need to bolster mental health support for women. The MENDIS framework, with its smartphone-based deployment, became a beacon of insight and support, illuminating paths forward for individuals who might otherwise remain in the dark.

Looking Ahead with Caution and Optimism

While MENDIS’s pilot success stirs optimism, the journey ahead demands cautious, strategic scaling. We envision a world where every marginalized woman has access to mental health support, where her well-being isn't marginalized. The Audiopedia Lab, the crucible of innovation, continues its mission, fostering tools like MENDIS and the AUMA framework under the banner of "Open Source for Equality."

Join Us on This Journey

As we look to the future, we invite you to join us. MENDIS is open and available for adaptation and use, a standing invitation to developers, health practitioners, and changemakers who share our vision.

Our ask is simple yet profound: Embrace this open-source technology that has the potential to revolutionize mental health support. Together, we can scale the walls of illiteracy and isolation, bringing solace and strength to those in the shadows of the Global South.

As we share this journey with you, we're reminded that innovation isn't just about new tools—it's about redefining what's possible. It's about daring to dream of a world where mental health is not a luxury but a fundamental right, accessible to all.

Join us at the Audiopedia Foundation, where we turn open source into open doors for the world's most vulnerable. Let's make the promise of MENDIS a reality for every woman who dares to hope for a better tomorrow.

Explore MENDIS at www.mendis.app and contribute to the "Open Source for Equality" movement on GitHub. Because mental well-being should be a universal chorus, not a solitary whisper in the dark.


Recent responses