Connecting People goes global!

This week the Centre for Mental Health Social Research at the University of York announced funding for a new project to explore the feasibility of adapting the Connecting People Intervention model for use in Sierra Leone. The project is funded by the Wellcome Trust and the University of York via the Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders (C2D2).

The grant will fund the Connecting People study researcher, Meredith Newlin, in collaboration with Dr Susie Whitwell from King’s Centre for Global Health, to visit Sierra Leone in July 2013 to explore how social interventions can help to meet the needs of people with mental health problems. The study will use ethnographic methods to evaluate the feasibility of adapting the Connecting People Intervention model and developing a sustainable training programme.

Early discussions with the Government of Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, service providers, NGOs, and the Mental Health Coalition, indicate the need to strengthen skill training in Sierra Leone to support existing services with evidence-based solutions. Findings from the study will be used to enable us to co-produce interventions with collaborators in Sierra Leone, which will ensure that Western approaches are not imposed where they may be inappropriate.

There is increasing evidence to suggest that the application of knowledge in developing countries is failing. A gap exists between what is known from research and what is done to apply it. To address this gap we aim to evaluate the knowledge transfer of psychosocial interventions for adults with mental disorders in low and middle income countries using a systematic review and preliminary data from this feasibility study in Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organisation has long been concerned about the gap between the high numbers of people with mental health problems and the limited availability of medication. This treatment gap is particularly large in low and middle income countries. However, Western medicine and therapy is arguably not universally appropriate.

Social interventions can help to fill the treatment gap for people with mental health problems in low and middle income countries. They receive a low priority from funding bodies, but have the potential to improve the quality of life, social participation and well-being of people experiencing mental distress. Our exploratory work will determine whether or not it will be possible to adapt the Connecting People Intervention and co-produce a version for the local context in Sierra Leone. Working with collaborators in Sierra Leone led by Dr Carmen Valle (University of Makeni), we aim to see if this is possible.

This first project for the new Centre for Mental Health Social Research at the University of York is an international collaboration involving Dr Elizabeth Hughes (Mental Health and Addictions Research Group, Department of Health Sciences, University of York), Dr Oliver Johnson (King’s College London), Professor David Morris (University of Central Lancashire)  and Dr Lynette Joubert (University of Melbourne, Australia).

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