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Psychological interventions that are brief, acceptable, effective and can be delivered by non-specialists are especially necessary in low- and middle-income countries, where mental health systems are unable to address the high level of psychosocial needs. Problem Management Plus (PM+) is a five-session intervention designed for those impaired by psychological distress while living in communities affected by adversity. Individual PM+ has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing distress in Kenya and Pakistan, and a group version of PM+ (Group PM+) was effective for conflict-affected women in Pakistan. This paper describes a feasibility and acceptability trial of locally adapted Group PM+ for women and men in an earthquake-affected region of rural Nepal.
In this feasibility cluster randomised controlled trial, participants in the experimental arm were offered five sessions of Group PM+ and participants in the control arm received enhanced usual care (EUC), which entailed brief psycho-education and providing referral options to primary care services with health workers trained in the mental health Gap Action Programme Intervention Guide (mhGAP-IG). A mixed-methods design was used to assess the feasibility and acceptability of Group PM+. Feasibility was assessed with criteria including fidelity and retention of participants. Acceptability was assessed through in-depth interviews with participants, family members, programme staff and other stakeholders. The primary clinical outcome was depression symptoms assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) administered at baseline and 8–8.5 weeks post-baseline (i.e. after completion of Group PM+ or EUC).
We recruited 121 participants (83% women and 17% men), with equal allocation to the Group PM+ and EUC arms (1:1). Group PM+ was delivered over five 2.5–3 hour sessions by trained and supervised gender-matched local non-specialists, with an average attendance of four out of five sessions. The quantitative and qualitative results demonstrated feasibility and acceptability for non-specialists to deliver Group PM+. Though the study was not powered to assess for effectiveness, for all five key outcome measures, including the primary clinical outcome, the estimated mean improvement was larger in the Group PM+ arm than the EUC arm.
The intervention and trial procedures were acceptable to participants, family members, and programme staff. The communities and participants found the intervention to be beneficial. Because feasibility and acceptability were established in this trial, a fully powered randomised controlled trial will be conducted for larger scale implementation to determine the effectiveness of the intervention in Nepal.
This systematic review compiled evidence on interventions to reduce mental health-related stigma among medical and nursing students in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Primary outcomes were stigmatising attitudes and discriminatory behaviours.
Data collection included two strategies. First, previous systematic reviews were searched for studies that met the inclusion criteria of the current review. Second, a new search was done, covering the time since the previous reviews, i.e. January 2013 to May 2017. Five search concepts were combined in order to capture relevant literature: stigma, mental health, intervention, professional students in medicine and nursing, and LMICs. A qualitative analysis of all included full texts was done with the software MAXQDA. Full texts were analysed with regard to the content of interventions, didactic methods, mental disorders, cultural adaptation, type of outcome measure and primary outcomes. Furthermore, a methodological quality assessment was undertaken.
A total of nine studies from six countries (Brazil, China, Malaysia, Nigeria, Somaliland and Turkey) were included. All studies reported significant results in at least one outcome measure. However, from the available literature, it is difficult to draw conclusions on the most effective interventions. No meta-analysis could be calculated due to the large heterogeneity of intervention content, evaluation design and outcome measures. Studies with contact interventions (either face-to-face or video) demonstrated attitudinal change. There was a clear lack of studies focusing on discriminatory behaviours. Accordingly, training of specific communication and clinical skills was lacking in most studies, with the exception of one study that showed a positive effect of training interview skills on attitudes. Methods for cultural adaptation of interventions were rarely documented. The methodological quality of most studies was relatively low, with the exception of two studies.
There is an increase in studies on anti-stigma interventions among professional students in LMICs. Some of these studies used contact interventions and showed positive effects. A stronger focus on clinical and communication skills and behaviour-related outcomes is needed in future studies.
The Boko Haram insurgency has brought turmoil and instability to Nigeria, generating a large number of internally displaced people and adding to the country's 17.5 million orphans and vulnerable children. Recently, steps have been taken to improve the mental healthcare infrastructure in Nigeria, including revamping national policies and initiating training of primary care providers in mental healthcare. In order for these efforts to succeed, they require means for community-based detection and linkage to care. A major gap preventing such efforts is the shortage of culturally appropriate, valid screening tools for identifying emotional and behavioral disorders among adolescents. In particular, studies have not conducted simultaneous validation of screening tools in multiple languages, to support screening and detection efforts in linguistically diverse populations. We aim to culturally adapt screening tools for emotional and behavioral disorders for use among adolescents in Nigeria, in order to facilitate future validation studies.
We used a rigorous mixed-method process to culturally adapt the Depression Self Rating Scale, Child PTSD Symptom Scale, and Disruptive Behavior Disorders Rating Scale. We employed expert translations, focus group discussions (N = 24), and piloting with cognitive interviewing (N = 24) to achieve semantic, content, technical, and criterion equivalence of screening tool items.
We identified and adapted items that were conceptually difficult for adolescents to understand, conceptually non-equivalent across languages, considered unacceptable to discuss, or stigmatizing. Findings regarding problematic items largely align with existing literature regarding cross-cultural adaptation.
Culturally adapting screening tools represents a vital first step toward improving community case detection.
This systematic review compiled evidence on interventions to reduce mental health-related stigma in primary health care (PHC) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Studies targeting PHC staff (including non-professionals) were included. Primary outcomes were stigmatising attitudes and discriminatory behaviours.
Data collection included two strategies. First, previous systematic reviews were searched for studies that met the inclusion criteria of the current review. Second, a new search was done, covering the time since the previous reviews, i.e. January 2013 to May 2017. Five search concepts were combined in order to capture relevant literature: stigma, mental health, intervention, PHC staff and LMICs. A qualitative analysis of all included full-texts was done with software MAXQDA. Full-texts were analysed with regards to the content of interventions, didactic methods, mental disorders, cultural adaptation, type of outcome measure and primary outcomes. Furthermore, a risk of bias assessment was undertaken.
A total of 18 studies were included. Risk of bias was rated as high in most included studies. Only six studies had tested their intervention against a control condition, two of which had used random allocation. Most frequently used interventions were lectures providing theoretical information. Many studies also used interactive methods (N = 9), discussed case studies (N = 8) or used role plays (N = 5). Three studies reported that they had used clinical practice and supervision. Results of these studies were mixed. No or little effects were found for brief training interventions (e.g. 1 h to 1 day). Longer training interventions with more sophisticated didactic methods produced statistically significant changes in validated stigma questionnaires. These results have to be interpreted with caution due to risk of bias. Methods for cultural adaptation of interventions were rarely documented.
More rigorous trials are needed in LMICs to test interventions that target discriminatory behaviours in relationship with patients. Cultural adaptation of stigma interventions and structural/institutional factors should be more explicitly addressed in such trials.
Despite increasing evidence for the benefits of psychological treatments (PTs) in low- and middle-income countries, few national health systems have adopted PTs as standard care. We aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of a group interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT-G) intervention, when delivered by lay community health workers (LCHWs) in a low-resource government health system in Uganda. The intended outcome was reduction of depression among caregivers of children with nodding syndrome, a neuropsychiatric condition with high morbidity, mortality and social stigma.
A non-randomized trial design was used. Caregivers in six villages (n = 69) received treatment as usual (TAU), according to government guidelines. Caregivers in seven villages (n = 73) received TAU as well as 12 sessions of IPT-G delivered by LCHWs. Primary outcomes were caregiver and child depression assessed at 1 and 6 months post-intervention.
Caregivers who received IPT-G had a significantly greater reduction in the risk of depression from baseline to 1 month [risk ratio (RR) 0.25, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.10–0.62] and 6 months (RR 0.33, 95% CI 0.11–0.95) post-intervention compared with caregivers who received TAU. Children of caregivers who received IPT-G had significantly greater reduction in depression scores than children of TAU caregivers at 1 month (Cohen's d = 0.57, p = 0.01) and 6 months (Cohen's d = 0.54, p = 0.03). Significant effects were also observed for psychological distress, stigma and social support among caregivers.
IPT-G delivered within a low-resource health system is an effective PT for common mental health problems in caregivers of children with a severe neuropsychiatric condition and has psychological benefits for the children as well. This supports national health policy initiatives to integrate PTs into primary health care services in Uganda.
Suicidal behaviour is an under-reported and hidden cause of death in most low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) due to lack of national systematic reporting for cause-specific mortality, high levels of stigma and religious or cultural sanctions. The lack of information on non-fatal suicidal behaviour (ideation, plans and attempts) in LMIC is a major barrier to design and implementation of prevention strategies. This study aims to determine the prevalence of non-fatal suicidal behaviour within community- and health facility-based populations in LMIC.
Twelve-month prevalence of suicidal ideation, plans and attempts were established through community samples (n = 6689) and primary care attendees (n = 6470) from districts in Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa, India and Nepal using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview suicidality module. Participants were also screened for depression and alcohol use disorder.
We found that one out of ten persons (10.3%) presenting at primary care facilities reported suicidal ideation within the past year, and 1 out of 45 (2.2%) reported attempting suicide in the same period. The range of suicidal ideation was 3.5–11.1% in community samples and 5.0–14.8% in health facility samples. A higher proportion of facility attendees reported suicidal ideation than community residents (10.3 and 8.1%, respectively). Adults in the South African facilities were most likely to endorse suicidal ideation (14.8%), planning (9.5%) and attempts (7.4%). Risk profiles associated with suicidal behaviour (i.e. being female, younger age, current mental disorders and lower educational and economic status) were highly consistent across countries.
The high prevalence of suicidal ideation in primary care points towards important opportunities to implement suicide risk reduction initiatives. Evidence-supported strategies including screening and treatment of depression in primary care can be implemented through the World Health Organization's mental health Global Action Programme suicide prevention and depression treatment guidelines. Suicidal ideation and behaviours in the community sample will require detection strategies to identify at risks persons not presenting to health facilities.
Two large earthquakes in 2015 caused widespread destruction in Nepal. This study aimed to examine frequency of common mental health and psychosocial problems and their correlates following the earthquakes.
A stratified multi-stage cluster sampling design was employed to randomly select 513 participants (aged 16 and above) from three earthquake-affected districts in Nepal: Kathmandu, Gorkha and Sindhupalchowk, 4 months after the second earthquake. Outcomes were selected based on qualitative preparatory research and included symptoms of depression and anxiety (Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25); post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD Checklist-Civilian); hazardous alcohol use (AUDIT-C); symptoms indicating severe psychological distress (WHO-UNHCR Assessment Schedule of Serious Symptoms in Humanitarian Settings (WASSS)); suicidal ideation (Composite International Diagnostic Interview); perceived needs (Humanitarian Emergency Settings Perceived Needs Scale (HESPER)); and functional impairment (locally developed scale).
A substantial percentage of participants scored above validated cut-off scores for depression (34.3%, 95% CI 28.4–40.4) and anxiety (33.8%, 95% CI 27.6–40.6). Hazardous alcohol use was reported by 20.4% (95% CI 17.1–24.3) and 10.9% (95% CI 8.8–13.5) reported suicidal ideation. Forty-two percent reported that ‘distress’ was a serious problem in their community. Anger that was out of control (symptom from the WASSS) was reported by 33.7% (95% CI 29.5–38.2). Fewer people had elevated rates of PTSD symptoms above a validated cut-off score (5.2%, 95% CI 3.9–6.8), and levels of functional impairment were also relatively low. Correlates of elevated symptom scores were female gender, lower caste and greater number of perceived needs. Residing in Gorkha and Sindhupalchowk districts and lower caste were also associated with greater perceived needs. Higher levels of impaired functioning were associated with greater odds of depression and anxiety symptoms; impaired functioning was less strongly associated with PTSD symptoms.
Four months after the earthquakes in Nepal, one out of three adults experienced symptoms of depression and distressing levels of anger, one out of five engaged in hazardous drinking, and one out of ten had suicidal thoughts. However, posttraumatic stress symptoms and functional impairment were comparatively less frequent. Taken together, the findings suggest that there were significant levels of psychological distress but likely low levels of disorder. The findings highlight the importance of indicated prevention strategies to reduce the risk of distress progressing to disorder within post-disaster mental health systems of care.
Self-report measurement instruments are commonly used to screen for mental health disorders in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC). The Western origins of most depression instruments may constitute a bias when used globally. Western measures based on the DSM, do not fully capture the expression of depression globally. We developed a self-report scale design to address this limitation, the International Depression Symptom Scale-General version (IDSS-G), based on empirical evidence of the signs and symptoms of depression reported across cultures. This paper describes the rationale and process of its development and the results of an initial test among a non-Western population.
We evaluated internal consistency reliability, test–retest reliability and inter-rater reliability of the IDSS-G in a sample N = 147 male and female attendees of primary health clinics in Yangon, Myanmar. For criterion validity, IDSS-G scores were compared with diagnosis by local psychiatrists using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM (SCID). Construct validity was evaluated by investigating associations between the IDSS-G and the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ), impaired function, and suicidal ideation.
The IDSS-G showed high internal consistency reliability (α = 0.92), test–retest reliability (r = 0.87), and inter-rater reliability (ICC = 0.90). Strong correlations between the IDSS-G and PHQ-9, functioning, and suicidal ideation supported construct validity. Criterion validity was supported for use of the IDSS-G to identify people with a SCID diagnosed depressive disorder (major depression/dysthymia). The IDSS-G also demonstrated incremental validity by predicting functional impairment beyond that predicted by the PHQ-9. Results suggest that the IDSS-G accurately assesses depression in this population. Future testing in other populations will follow.
Ethical, logistical, and funding approaches preclude conducting randomized control trials (RCTs) in some humanitarian crises. A lack of RCTs and other intervention research has contributed to a limited evidence-base for mental health and psychosocial support (MHPS) programs after disasters, war, and disease outbreaks. Propensity score methods (PSMs) are an alternative analysis technique with potential application for evaluating MHPS programs in humanitarian emergencies.
PSMs were used to evaluate impacts of education reintegration packages (ERPs) and other (vocational or economic) reintegration packages (ORPs) v. no reintegration programs on mental health of child soldiers. Propensity scores were used to determine weighting of child soldiers in each of the three treatment arms. Multiple linear regression was used to estimate adjusted changes in symptom score severity on culturally validated measures of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and functional impairment from baseline to 1-year follow-up.
Among 258 Nepali child soldiers participating in reintegration programs, 54.7% completed ERP and 22.9% completed ORP. There was a non-significant reduction in depression by 0.59 (95% CI −1.97 to 0.70) for ERP and by 0.60 (95% CI −2.16 to 0.96) for ORP compared with no treatment. There were non-significant increases in PTSD (1.15, 95% CI −1.55 to 3.86) and functional impairment (0.91, 95% CI −0.31 to 2.14) associated with ERP and similar findings for ORP (PTSD: 0.66, 95% CI −2.24 to 3.57; functional impairment (1.05, 95% CI −0.71 to 2.80).
In a humanitarian crisis in which a non-randomized intervention assignment protocol was employed, the statistical technique of PSMs addressed differences in covariate distribution between child soldiers who received different integration packages. Our analysis did not demonstrate significant changes in psychosocial outcomes for ERPs and ORPs. We suggest the use of PSMs in evaluating non-randomized interventions in humanitarian crises when non-randomized conditions are not utilized.
Task-sharing is the involvement of non-specialist providers to deliver mental health services. A challenge for task-sharing programs is to achieve and maintain clinical competence of non-specialists, including primary care workers, paraprofessionals, and lay providers. We developed a tool for non-specialist peer ratings of common factors clinical competency to evaluate and optimize competence during training and supervision in global mental health task-sharing initiatives.
The 18-item ENhancing Assessment of Common Therapeutic factors (ENACT) tool was pilot-tested with non-specialists participating in mental health Gap Action Programme trainings in Nepal. Qualitative process evaluation was used to document development of the peer rating scoring system. Qualitative data included interviews with trainers and raters as well as transcripts of pre- and post-training observed structured clinical evaluations.
Five challenges for non-specialist peer ratings were identified through the process evaluation: (1) balance of training and supervision objectives with research objectives; (2) burden for peer raters due to number of scale items, number of response options, and use of behavioral counts; (3) capturing hierarchy of clinical skills; (4) objective v. subjective aspects of rating; and (5) social desirability when rating peers.
The process culminated in five recommendations based on the key findings for the development of scales to be used by non-specialists for peer ratings in low-resource settings. Further research is needed to determine the ability of ENACT to capture the relationship of clinical competence with client outcomes and to explore the relevance of these recommendations for non-specialist peer ratings in high-resource settings.
Post-conflict mental health studies in low-income countries have lacked
pre-conflict data to evaluate changes in psychiatric morbidity resulting
from political violence.
This prospective study compares mental health before and after exposure
to direct political violence during the People's War in Nepal.
An adult cohort completed the Beck Depression Inventory and Beck Anxiety
Inventory in 2000 prior to conflict violence in their community and in
2007 after the war.
Of the original 316 participants, 298 (94%) participated in the
post-conflict assessment. Depression increased from 30.9 to 40.6%.
Anxiety increased from 26.2 to 47.7%. Post-conflict post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD) was 14.1%. Controlling for ageing, the depression
increase was not significant. The anxiety increase showed a dose–response
association with conflict exposure when controlling for ageing and daily
stressors. No demographic group displayed unique vulnerability or
resilience to the effects of conflict exposure.
Conflict exposure should be considered in the context of other types of
psychiatric risk factors. Conflict exposure predicted increases in
anxiety whereas socioeconomic factors and non-conflict stressful life
events were the major predictors of depression. Research and
interventions in postconflict settings therefore should consider
differential trajectories for depression v. anxiety and
the importance of addressing chronic social problems ranging from poverty
to gender and ethnic/caste discrimination.
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