Addressing depression and alcoholism in the Sacred Valley

At Sacred Valley Health/ Ayni Wasi, we support holistic health. This means not only using natural medicines in addition to Western medicine, but also teaching mental health in addition to physical health. This past Friday we held a training for our promotoras (community health workers) on two issues rarely discussed but often present in their communities: depression and alcoholism. While planning the curriculum, Lucy, Jenny and Leticia challenged each other to come up with a manner of approaching the topics, including activities and visuals, that would be most effective and promote maximum understanding.

Community Coordinator Mary and promotoras Escolastica enjoying ‘empanaditas,’ a traditional treat on Good Friday.
The training was held on Good Friday. Here, Community Coordinators Mary and Escolastica enjoy ‘empanaditas,’ a traditional treat.

We began the day with pre-tests, as always, to measure the promotoras’ knowledge of the subject before the training. When asking questions about depresión (depression), many promotoras did not understand the concept and thought we were referring to ‘presión’ (high blood pressure), a sure sign that we had our work cut out for us.

Lucy and Leticia explaining a case study of a woman with depression.
Lucy and Leticia explaining a case study of a woman with depression.

To explain depression we used the definition from the DSM-IV, a reference which mental health professionals use to differentiate patient symptoms. As at every training, we provided a picture-based resource document. Thanks to the University of Rochester’s generous donation of handheld whiteboards, we then piloted a new activity in which several patient situations were explained and each promotora held up her whiteboard with an “x” for general sadness or an “o” to signify clinical depression, immediately and visually measuring individual understanding of the subject matter. As it is difficult to accurately express the concept of depression in a visual format, and in order to utilize a different teaching methodology, we read a story about a woman named Luz who goes through the full process of depression and recovery – how it began, how others treated her, how her feelings evolved, what actions her local promotora took to help her, and how she responded to a later recurrence of her depression. After Leticia shared several natural remedies, we then discussed with the promotoras what specific actions they could take to help someone suffering from depression and how to recognize a severe case that requires additional professional assistance.

Promotoras using their whiteboards to answer depression or general sadness.
Promotoras using their whiteboards to answer depression or general sadness.
Ana Cecilia identifies the long-term effects of alcoholism on the body.
Ana Cecilia identifies the long-term effects of alcoholism on the body.

We next turned to alcoholism, beginning with signs and symptoms — how to recognize that a person is not merely enjoyed a few drinks here and there but is truly an alcoholic. Jenny facilitated an activity with side-by-side pictures of a blank body on which the promotoras indicated immediate effects of alcohol and then the long-term effects of alcoholism, a striking visual that showcased the physical damage alcohol can inflict. Next we discussed the harm that alcoholism can bring to a family, using a visual to prompt discussion among the promotoras on differences between a healthy family and one affected by alcoholism. Several of the promotoras seemed deeply moved by this topic, referencing personal experiences.

Lucy and Mary showcase possible differences between two families affected and not affected by alcoholism, leading to a great discussion by the promotoras.
Lucy and Mary showcase possible differences between two families affected and not affected by alcoholism, leading to a great discussion by the promotoras.

Jenny provided information on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Steps, and the group brainstormed ways that both an individual promotora and an entire community can provide services for alcoholics. Finally, Leticia led the entire group in a Quechua translation of a guided meditation intended to calm and center. After the training, several promotoras expressed their excitement about presenting the topic of alcoholism at the next General Assembly, since addressing it has such potential to positively impact their communities.

The promotoras thoroughly enjoying the relaxation of their guided meditation!
The promotoras thoroughly enjoying the relaxation of their guided meditation!

Also, remember that there are only 12 days left in the campaign to raise funds for our Promotora Leadership Program! Check out Escolastica’s story at: startsomegood.com/Venture/sacred_valley_health/Campaigns/Show/machu_picchu_trek_for_sacred_valley_health

Written by Lucy Paine

 

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