In fall 2010, Calvin College nursing professor Mary Molewyk Doornbos, together with co-investigator Gail Zandee, began asking questions and holding focus groups in three impoverished, underserved neighborhoods in Grand Rapids. It didn’t take long for Doornbos and her colleagues to see qualitative data backing up the research showing that depression and anxiety disproportionately affect urban, ethnically diverse, impoverished women.

Focus groups information showed that the women desired education and support around these issues. So Doornbos and her colleagues created a curriculum that entailed the things the women said they wanted to learn.

In fall 2011, a five-year pilot study—“Women Supporting Women”—was launched in the three neighborhoods. The program included six sessions, each 90 minutes in length, over four months, which helped identify symptoms, causes, treatment and coping strategies for dealing with anxiety/depression. The goal was to see an increase in the mental health selfcare of the women in the program.

A year after the first pilot study concluded, the results are in, and the program has been deemed a resounding success by organizers and participants. Now, the Women Supporting Women program will be repeated for five more years. If the results are consistent, organizers say this could serve as a model for other urban settings with other schools of nursing.