Psychological care for vulnerable women

Grant-making Mental Health Services Psychossocial Interventions Women

Development: from August 2021 to January 2022

Partners: Casa de Marias


Beginning August 2021, Instituto Cactus started a partnership with Casa de Marias, an organization and care facility focused on women’s mental health in Brazil, to provide emergency mental health care support targeting black, indigenous and vulnerable women in need. The project, which is expected to run for 6 months, consists of providing psychological care services, free of charge, to up to 288 women, and is coordinated by a group of black women, who are particularly mindful to topics such as social class, gender and race.

As we do not believe in “one-size fits all” solutions for mental health, one of our key priorities at Instituto Cactus is to adopt segmented approaches to our projects and initiatives, in order to build more assertive and effective interventions – which is why we focus, in this case, on a specific group deemed as a priority. Because mental health is not only about us as individuals but is influenced by external and structural aspects, we have to also take into account the specific challenges and background of those women in order to create appropriate solutions to them.

On top of providing adequate care and support to women, the project aims to generate takeaways and insights so we, as a society, can approach women’s mental health more effectively. Because we know that committing to a psychotherapeutic process can be challenging, the services are offered in two different formats, namely: individual and group appointments.

The emergency individual appointments are important tools to welcome and understand specific and emergency demands, and work as gateways to other types of care, with referrals to individual or group therapeutic work, when necessary. The emergency care groups are led by a team of three professionals (two psychotherapists and a supervisor) who conduct a weekly rotating care group.

One of the key preliminary takeaways of the project is that there is an unmet demand for this type of care in emergency contexts and that such solutions can be replicated to other contexts. The group appointments can be particularly effective not only because they entail a format that allows for a greater number of people to receive support at the same time, but also because being able to listen and relate to others in similar situations, as well as to collective acknowledge the structural aspects of psychological sufferings, which can be very powerful tools in mental health care.



Preliminary outcomes

  • Up to 288 available spots for women to receive care by January 2022;
  • Communications results in 10 media vehicles raising awareness about the need to create, in mental health, customized solutions addressing the needs of each specific group, such as women; and
  • Establishment of a successful mental health support service and positive perception and feedback from users.

Preliminary learnings

  • Mental health professionals of the project validated the online/remote format as being as effective as being in person;
  • Group care can be a powerful format as it allows for more people to access to care at the same time, as well as favours the process of relating to others’ problems;
  • Recognition of the need to have an intersectoral approach when working with mental health as, for instance, the mental health of women, which is impacted by a series of issues related to other social agendas, such as social and legal assistance. It is necessary to coordinate the access to other services in order to offer comprehensive care.

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