Tag Archives: Quarantine

Has Zimbabwe Found the Solution to the Mental Health Crisis?

Many people have experienced worsening mental health since the COVID pandemic began. Many others struggled even before. But I came across an interesting article today about a very innovative program in Zimbabwe that just might have the solution. It’s called the Friendship Bench:

This is a community-based psychological treatment programme delivered by over 700 trained community grandmothers in over 100 communities in Zimbabwe.

In a country with just 13 psychiatrists for a population of 16 million, this model has helped expand mental health outreach.

It has taken years to build the Friendship Bench model and show that through talk therapy, trained grandmothers can treat depression, anxiety and alleviate suicidal thoughts across communities in Zimbabwe and beyond.

We tend to assume that only professionals can provide talk therapy, but Zimbabwe’s experience argues otherwise. Zimbabwe has few resources and so it was forced to innovate, but we could benefit from their discovery.

Such a program is all the more feasible in the US or other wealthy countries, with our broad access to the internet and smartphones.

P.S. This is by no means the first time major innovations have come from Zimbabwe. Lyft was originally called Zimride (Zimbabwe Ride) and was inspired by ridesharing systems there.

I Found a Secret Gym!

One of the benefits of not travelling in 2020 has been discovering what’s right around me. I’ve made more new friends this year than in the prior 5 years combined. I find myself actually (perish the thought!) saying hello to neighbors! We’re even exchanging baked goods like something out of the 1950’s. And it’s totally awesome.

Besides new friends, I just discovered something else: the building I’ve been living in for 2.5 years has a gym! I peeked through a hole in the laundry room wall, where plumbers were working on a pipe. As I got closer, I could hardly believe what I saw. A secret room filled with…exercise equipment?

I passed through a door marked Meter Room, past our electric meters, and went through a second door…this one unmarked. Inside was a gym straight out of the 1970’s. Rusty iron weights, exercise bikes without a single transistor, and bodybuilding posters from decades ago.

Our superintendent created this gym entirely on his own. It’s not the Equinox, but the equipment is surprisingly varied and of high quality. He made it for himself and shared it with whoever might wish to use it. After his recent retirement and return to his home country of Colombia, he left all this here for us.

Working out in this secluded space alongside exposed pipes makes me feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger at Gold’s Gym in the 1970’s. Until I look into one of the mirrors, at least. 🙂

I wanted to tell you about this to emphasize the wonderful things we gain from being at home more this year. We are not just missing out on travel, concerts, etc. We get something too…a new familiarity with and appreciation for the world right outside our own doors.

It also shows me the great effect one person can have on others, even others they’ve never met, with just a little care and individual initiative. People our superintendent will never see will be healthier because of what he did. What a great example for the rest of us!

How are you guys staying healthy this year? What have you discovered nearby? Let me know in the comments!

I Just Bought These FDA Approved Surgical Masks for My Family

I just bought these high quality surgical masks from Taiwan.

I’ve heard scary stuff about poorly made masks that don’t do a good job protecting people. I’ve worn these KN95 masks for some time (also FDA approved) and found them very comfortable, but I think masks are like clothing: they fit different people differently.

Some in my family prefer the surgical style masks (the mostly blue disposable ones you see frequently). So last night, I made it my mission to find a high quality, FDA approved surgical mask.

I found out that a good surgical mask should be ASTM-rated. This is an international standard of how the mask performs:

  • Level 1: low barrier protection. General use for short procedures and exams that don’t involve aerosols, spray or fluids
  • Level 2: moderate barrier protection. For low to moderate levels of aerosols, spray and/or fluids
  • Level 3: maximum barrier protection. For heavy levels of aerosols, spray and/or fluids

Every mask I’ve ever seen in normal stores has no ASTM rating at all, which means they’re less protective. The masks I bought are ASTM Level 1.

The FDA-approved higher level masks I saw appeared to be available in very large lots designed for hospitals. Since no one in my family works in the medical field, I am thinking an ASTM Level 1 mask should suffice. If you guys know of a Level 3 mask available in smaller quantities, please leave that info in the comments.

The FDA publishes lists of approved surgical masks and respirators (like the KN95 I wear). You can see the masks I bought on that list below. If you match the model number on the FDA list to the model number on the Mocacare website, you’ll see it’s an exact match.

Consider these masks as a good alternative to a KN95 or to surgical masks that came from who-knows-where.

The New COVID Strain in the UK

A novel variant has been identified which has spread rapidly within the UK.

Public Health England

Like you, I’ve been hearing about this new strain of COVID cropping up in the UK. I did a little digging on it this morning. Here’s what I found:

  • The new mutation makes the virus easier to transmit. These are still estimates, but this strain may increase how many other people each sick person transmits to from 1.1 to 1.5 (the R-naught). That’s a very big difference.
  • The new mutation doesn’t appear to make people any sicker than any other strain of COVID.
  • Since the new mutation involves changes to the spike protein that vaccines target, it might make vaccines less effective, but we don’t really know yet. It’s more likely the vaccines would need a tweak than that the vaccines would be rendered useless.

I suggest checking out Peter Horby’s Twitter account. He’s one of the leading UK researchers in this area and has been posting some great information on this new strain of COVID.

Whatever the details, what we do remains the same: masks, distancing, wash hands. Everything we’ve done since March. We can do it!