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In low-resource settings, e-mental health may substantially increase access to evidence-based interventions for common mental disorders. We conducted a systematic literature search to identify randomised trials examining the effects of digital interventions with or without therapeutic guidance compared to control conditions in individuals with anxiety and/or depression symptoms in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
The main outcome was the reduction in symptoms at the post-test. Secondary outcomes included improvements in quality of life and longer-term effects (≥20 weeks post-randomisation). The effect size Hedges’ g was calculated using the random effects model.
A total of 21 studies (23 comparisons) with 5.296 participants were included. Digital interventions were more effective than controls in reducing symptoms of common mental disorders at the post-test (g = −0.89, 95% confidence interval [CI] −1.26 to −0.52, p < 0.001; NNT = 2.91). These significant effects were confirmed when examining depressive (g = −0.77, 95% CI −1.11; −0.44) and anxiety symptoms separately (g = −1.02, 95% CI −1.53 to −0.52) and across all other sensitivity analyses. Digital interventions also resulted in a small but significant effect in improving quality of life (g = 0.32, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.45) at the post-test. Over the longer term, the effects were smaller but remained significant for all examined outcomes. Heterogeneity was moderate to high in all analyses. Subgroup and meta-regression analyses did not result in significant outcomes in any of the examined variables (e.g., guided vs. unguided interventions).
Digital interventions, with or without guidance, may effectively bridge the gap between treatment supply and demand in LMICs. Nevertheless, more studies are needed to draw firm conclusions regarding the magnitude of the effects of digital interventions.
With the launch of the Prisms Global Mental Health series, we are taking the opportunity to make explicit our vision for Global Mental Health. We strongly propose a Public Mental Health approach, incorporating culture and context and prioritizing equity and inclusion, particularly of previously marginalized groups. In using a Public Mental Health approach, we are framing Global Mental Health research as population-oriented research that seeks to understand the etiology, prevention, promotion, and treatment of mental and behavioral health problems with a strong emphasis on ‘knowledge generation’ which is relevant, transferable, and generalizable to different populations and settings. The public health approach also incorporates policy and systems research and evaluation, with a particular focus on accessibility and quality of care and human rights. By using the term Global, we are being explicit in acknowledging the role(s) of culture and context in all stages of research, from conceptualization through interpretation and dissemination. In centering equity and inclusion, we are advocating for a focus on populations who have been marginalized and have not been well represented within Global Mental Health research and active participation of voices of the populations that are included in the research. We are also working to promote participation of individuals from diverse and underrepresented communities and diverse experiences, including those with lived experience, in all stages of research pipeline: from conceptualization to publication of findings. Our readers will see these values and ideas operationalized in the choice of article topics and the published manuscripts as well as in the editorial and advisory board membership and selection of reviewers.
Several in-person and remote delivery formats of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) for panic disorder are available, but up-to-date and comprehensive evidence on their comparative efficacy and acceptability is lacking. Our aim was to evaluate the comparative efficacy and acceptability of all CBT delivery formats to treat panic disorder. To answer our question we performed a systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. We searched MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, and CENTRAL, from inception to 1st January 2022. Pairwise and network meta-analyses were conducted using a random-effects model. Confidence in the evidence was assessed using Confidence in Network Meta-Analysis (CINeMA). The protocol was published in a peer-reviewed journal and in PROSPERO. We found a total of 74 trials with 6699 participants. Evidence suggests that face-to-face group [standardised mean differences (s.m.d.) −0.47, 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.87 to −0.07; CINeMA = moderate], face-to-face individual (s.m.d. −0.43, 95% CI −0.70 to −0.15; CINeMA = Moderate), and guided self-help (SMD −0.42, 95% CI −0.77 to −0.07; CINeMA = low), are superior to treatment as usual in terms of efficacy, whilst unguided self-help is not (SMD −0.21, 95% CI −0.58 to −0.16; CINeMA = low). In terms of acceptability (i.e. all-cause discontinuation from the trial) CBT delivery formats did not differ significantly from each other. Our findings are clear in that there are no efficacy differences between CBT delivered as guided self-help, or in the face-to-face individual or group format in the treatment of panic disorder. No CBT delivery format provided high confidence in the evidence at the CINeMA evaluation.
There is increasing evidence that brief psychological interventions delivered by lay providers can reduce common mental disorders in the short-term. This study evaluates the longer-term impact of a brief, lay provider delivered group psychological intervention (Group Problem Management Plus; gPM+) on the mental health of refugees and their children's mental health.
This single-blind, parallel, controlled trial randomised 410 adult Syrians in Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan who screened positive for distress and impaired functioning to either five sessions of gPM+ or enhanced usual care (EUC). Primary outcomes were scores on the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25 (HSCL-25; depression and anxiety scales) assessed at baseline, 6 weeks, 3 months and 12 months Secondary outcomes included disability, posttraumatic stress, personally identified problems, prolonged grief, prodromal psychotic symptoms, parenting behaviour and children's mental health.
Between 15 October 2019 and 2 March 2020, 204 participants were assigned to gPM + and 206 to EUC, and 307 (74.9%) were retained at 12 months. Intent-to-treat analyses indicated that although participants in gPM + had greater reductions in depression at 3 months, at 12 months there were no significant differences between treatment arms on depression (mean difference −0.9, 95% CI −3.2 to 1.3; p = 0.39) or anxiety (mean difference −1.7, 95% CI −4.8 to −1.3; p = 0.06). There were no significant differences between conditions for secondary outcomes except that participants in gPM + had greater increases in positive parenting.
The short-term benefits of a brief, psychological programme delivered by lay providers may not be sustained over longer time periods, and there is a need for sustainable programmes that can prolong benefits gained through gPM + .
Studies have identified high rates of mental disorders in refugees, but most used self-report measures of psychiatric symptoms. In this study, we examined the percentages of adult refugees and asylum seekers meeting diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD), post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder (BPD), and psychosis.
A systematic literature search in three databases was conducted. We included studies examining the prevalence of MDD, post-traumatic stress disorder, BPD, and psychosis in adult refugees according to a clinical diagnosis. To estimate the pooled prevalence rates, we performed a meta-analysis using the Meta-prop package in Stata (PROSPERO: CRD42018111778).
We identified 7048 records and 40 studies (11 053 participants) were included. The estimated pooled prevalence rates were 32% (95% CI 26–39%; I2= 99%) for MDD, 31% (95% CI 25–38%; I2= 99.5%) for post-traumatic stress disorder, 5% (95% CI 2–9%; I2 = 97.7%) for BPD, and 1% (95% CI 1–2%; I2= 0.00%) for psychosis. Subgroup analyses showed significantly higher prevalence rates of MDD in studies conducted in low-middle income countries (47%; 95% CI 38–57%, p = 0.001) than high-income countries studies (28%; 95% CI 22–33%), and in studies which used the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (37%; 95% CI 28–46% p = 0.05) compared to other diagnostic interviews (26%; 95% CI 20–33%). Studies among convenience samples reported significant (p = 0.001) higher prevalence rates of MDD (35%; 95% CI 23–46%) and PTSD (34%; 95% CI 22–47%) than studies among probability-based samples (MDD: 30%; 95% CI 21–39%; PTSD: 28%; 95% 19–37%).
This meta-analysis has shown a markedly high prevalence of mental disorders among refugees. Our results underline the devastating effects of war and violence, and the necessity to provide mental health intervention to address mental disorders among refugees. The results should be cautiously interpreted due to the high heterogeneity.
The refugee experience is associated with several potentially traumatic events that increase the risk of developing mental health consequences, including worsening of subjective wellbeing and quality of life, and risk of developing mental disorders. Here we present actions that countries hosting forcibly displaced refugees may implement to decrease exposure to potentially traumatic stressors, enhance subjective wellbeing and prevent the onset of mental disorders. A first set of actions refers to the development of reception conditions aiming to decrease exposure to post-migration stressors, and a second set of actions refers to the implementation of evidence-based psychological interventions aimed at reducing stress, preventing the development of mental disorders and enhancing subjective wellbeing.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic might affect mental health. Data from population-representative panel surveys with multiple waves including pre-COVID data investigating risk and protective factors are still rare.
In a stratified random sample of the German household population (n = 6684), we conducted survey-weighted multiple linear regressions to determine the association of various psychological risk and protective factors assessed between 2015 and 2020 with changes in psychological distress [(PD; measured via Patient Health Questionnaire for Depression and Anxiety (PHQ-4)] from pre-pandemic (average of 2016 and 2019) to peri-pandemic (both 2020 and 2021) time points. Control analyses on PD change between two pre-pandemic time points (2016 and 2019) were conducted. Regularized regressions were computed to inform on which factors were statistically most influential in the multicollinear setting.
PHQ-4 scores in 2020 (M = 2.45) and 2021 (M = 2.21) were elevated compared to 2019 (M = 1.79). Several risk factors (catastrophizing, neuroticism, and asking for instrumental support) and protective factors (perceived stress recovery, positive reappraisal, and optimism) were identified for the peri-pandemic outcomes. Control analyses revealed that in pre-pandemic times, neuroticism and optimism were predominantly related to PD changes. Regularized regression mostly confirmed the results and highlighted perceived stress recovery as most consistent influential protective factor across peri-pandemic outcomes.
We identified several psychological risk and protective factors related to PD outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. A comparison of pre-pandemic data stresses the relevance of longitudinal assessments to potentially reconcile contradictory findings. Implications and suggestions for targeted prevention and intervention programs during highly stressful times such as pandemics are discussed.
Self-report screening instruments are frequently used as scalable methods to detect common mental disorders (CMDs), but their validity across cultural and linguistic groups is unclear. We summarized the diagnostic accuracy of brief questionnaires on symptoms of depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among Arabic-speaking adults.
Five databases were searched from inception to 22 January 2021 (PROSPERO: CRD42018070645). Studies were included when diagnostic accuracy of brief (maximally 25 items) psychological questionnaires was assessed in Arabic-speaking populations and the reference standard was a clinical interview. Data on sensitivity/specificity, area under the curve, and data to generate 2 × 2 tables at various thresholds were extracted. Meta-analysis was performed using the diagmeta package in R. Quality of studies was assessed with QUADAS-2.
Thirty-two studies (Nparticipants = 4042) reporting on 17 questionnaires with 5–25 items targeting depression/anxiety (n = 14), general distress (n = 2), and PTSD (n = 1) were included. Seventeen studies (53%) scored high risk on at least two QUADAS-2 domains. The meta-analysis identified an optimal threshold of 11 (sensitivity 76.9%, specificity 85.1%) for the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) (nstudies = 7, nparticipants = 711), 7 (sensitivity 81.9%, specificity 87.6%) for the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) anxiety subscale and 6 (sensitivity 73.0%, specificity 88.6%) for the depression subscale (nstudies = 4, nparticipants = 492), and 8 (sensitivity 86.0%, specificity 83.9%) for the Self-Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ-20) (nstudies = 4, nparticipants = 459).
We present optimal thresholds to screen for perinatal depression with the EPDS, anxiety/depression with the HADS, and CMDs with the SRQ-20. More research on Arabic-language questionnaires, especially those targeting PTSD, is needed.
The World Health Organization Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 (WHODAS 2.0) is a generic measure of functional impairment and disability but to date no studies have reported its applicability in a population of Syrian refugees.
The aim of this study was to explore the psychometric properties and factor structure of the Arabic version of the WHODAS 2.0 among a population of Syrian refugees in a Jordanian refugee camp setting. The tool was used as part of a screening procedure for a randomised controlled trial assessing the effectiveness of a low-intensity psychological intervention.
A representative sample of Syrian refugees (n = 650) were screened to assess levels of functional impairment and psychological distress. The screening results were used to explore the internal consistency and dimensionality of the WHODAS 2.0. We assessed level of convergence with the validated Kessler 10-item Psychological Distress Scale (K10), which assesses psychological distress. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) were conducted to explore the construct validity and factor structure of the WHODAS 2.0.
The mean baseline WHODAS 2.0 score was 20.5 (s.d. = 7.6). The internal consistency was acceptable (Cronbach's alpha 0.74), with all 12-items appearing to be related to the same construct. The WHODAS 2.0 was positively correlated with the K10 (r = 0.57, P < 0.001). The results of the EFA identified a three-factor solution accounting for 51% of variation, corresponding with factors related to self-activities, external activities and self-care. CFA results indicated good fit of the three-factor solution.
The results indicated that the WHODAS 2.0 has a three-factor solution and is an acceptable screening tool for use among Syrian refugees.
Psychotherapies are the treatment of choice for panic disorder, but which should be considered as first-line treatment is yet to be substantiated by evidence.
To examine the most effective and accepted psychotherapy for the acute phase of panic disorder with or without agoraphobia via a network meta-analysis.
We conducted a systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) to examine the most effective and accepted psychotherapy for the acute phase of panic disorder. We searched MEDLINE, Embase, PsycInfo and CENTRAL, from inception to 1 Jan 2021 for RCTs. Cochrane and PRISMA guidelines were used. Pairwise and network meta-analyses were conducted using a random-effects model. Confidence in the evidence was assessed using Confidence in Network Meta-Analysis (CINeMA). The protocol was published in a peer-reviewed journal and in PROSPERO (CRD42020206258).
We included 136 RCTs in the systematic review. Taking into consideration efficacy (7352 participants), acceptability (6862 participants) and the CINeMA confidence in evidence appraisal, the best interventions in comparison with treatment as usual (TAU) were cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT) (for efficacy: standardised mean differences s.m.d. = −0.67, 95% CI −0.95 to −0.39; CINeMA: moderate; for acceptability: relative risk RR = 1.21, 95% CI −0.94 to 1.56; CINeMA: moderate) and short-term psychodynamic therapy (for efficacy: s.m.d. = −0.61, 95% CI −1.15 to −0.07; CINeMA: low; for acceptability: RR = 0.92, 95% CI 0.54–1.54; CINeMA: moderate). After removing RCTs at high risk of bias only CBT remained more efficacious than TAU.
CBT and short-term psychodynamic therapy are reasonable first-line choices. Studies with high risk of bias tend to inflate the overall efficacy of treatments. Results from this systematic review and network meta-analysis should inform clinicians and guidelines.
The study aimed to examine differences in, and characteristics of psychiatric care utilization in young refugees who came to Sweden as unaccompanied or accompanied minors, compared with that of their non-refugee immigrant and Swedish-born peers.
This register-linkage cohort study included 746 688 individuals between 19 and 25 years of age in 2009, whereof 32 481 were refugees (2896 unaccompanied and 29 585 accompanied) and 32 151 non-refugee immigrants. Crude and multivariate Cox regression models yielding hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were conducted to investigate subsequent psychiatric care utilization for specific disorders, duration of residence and age at migration.
The adjusted HRs for psychiatric care utilization due to any mental disorder was significantly lower in both non-refugee and refugee immigrants when compared to Swedish-born [aHR: 0.78 (95% CI 0.76–0.81) and 0.75 (95% CI 0.72–0.77, respectively)]. Within the refugee group, unaccompanied had slightly lower adjusted risk estimates than accompanied. This pattern was similar for all specific mental disorders except for higher rates in schizophrenia, reaction to severe stress/adjustment disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychiatric health care utilization was also higher in immigrants with more than 10 years of residency in Sweden entering the country being younger than 6 years of age.
For most mental disorders, psychiatric health care utilization in young refugees and non-refugee immigrants was lower than in their Swedish-born peers; exceptions are schizophrenia and stress-related disorders. Arrival in Sweden before the age of 6 years was associated with higher rates of overall psychiatric care utilization.
Problem Management Plus (PM+) is a brief multicomponent intervention incorporating behavioral strategies delivered by lay health workers. The effectiveness of PM+ has been evaluated in randomized controlled trials in Kenya and Pakistan. When developing interventions for large-scale implementation it is considered essential to evaluate their feasibility and acceptability in addition to their efficacy. This paper discusses a qualitative evaluation of PM+ for women affected by adversity in Kenya.
Qualitative interviews were conducted with 27 key informants from peri-urban Nairobi, Kenya, where PM+ was tested. Interview participants included six women who completed PM+, six community health volunteers (CHVs) who delivered the intervention, seven people with local decision making power, and eight project staff involved in the PM+ trial.
Key informants generally noted positive experiences with PM+. Participants and CHVs reported the positive impact PM+ had made on their lives. Nonetheless, potential structural and psychological barriers to scale up were identified. The sustainability of CHVs as unsalaried, volunteer providers was mentioned by most interviewees as the main barrier to scaling up the intervention.
The findings across diverse stakeholders show that PM+ is largely acceptable in this Kenyan setting. The results indicated that when further implemented, PM+ could be of great value to people in communities exposed to adversities such as interpersonal violence and chronic poverty. Barriers to large-scale implementation were identified, of which the sustainability of the non-specialist health workforce was the most important one.
Recent studies show that individual single-session psychological
debriefing does not prevent and can even aggravate symptoms of
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
We studied the effect of emotional ventilation debriefing and educational
debriefing v. no debriefing on symptoms of PTSD, anxiety
We randomised 236 adult survivors of a recent traumatic event to either
emotional ventilation debriefing, educational debriefing or no debriefing
(control) and followed up at 2 weeks, 6 weeks and 6 months.
Psychiatric symptoms decreased in all three groups over time, without
significant differences between the groups in symptoms of PTSD
(P=0.33). Participants in the emotional debriefing
group with high baseline hyperarousal score had significantly more PTSD
symptoms at 6 weeks than control participants
Our study did not provide evidence for the usefulness of individual
psychological debriefing in reducing symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and
depression after psychological trauma.
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