DGHI’s commitment to Global Mental Health: The Global Mental Health Initiative

October 21, 2014

Over the past decade, there has been an increased effort to highlight mental health disorders worldwide but it is still under-represented proportional to the 450 million people who suffer daily from mental illnesses. While these disorders can affect populations in the developed or developing world, the latter populations have disproportionately less access to health resources. The health systems in the low- and middle- income countries are ill-equipped to provide appropriate treatments for the variety of mental health disorders and facilities are understaffed to address the sheer number of people that combat these disorders. These challenges create a gap in the developing world between the populations in need of resources and the resources available. 

At DGHI, the recently founded Global Mental Health (GMH) Initiative strives to minimize this mental health gap. This Initiative promotes a campus-wide collaborative environment across topics such as depression, substance use, maternal and reproductive health, trauma, refugees and many more. Our faculty members represent numerous approaches to address interdisciplinary research needed to effectively diagnose, treat, and develop mental health systems of care. 

Under the leadership of the GMH Initiative’s director, Kathleen Sikkema, the Initiative coordinates research collaboration among faculty, maximizes educational opportunities, sponsors a speaker series, and funds pilot studies on an annual basis. Recently, the Initiative funded the following three studies:

Innovations in Tablet-Based Neuropsychological Assessments for Global Mental Health: Pilot Applications for Adolescent Development & Suicide Prevention in South Asia
Joanna Maselko, Brandon Kohrt and colleagues were funded by the Initiative to adapt culturally appropriate neuropsychological tools to be delivered in tablet-based formats for South Asian adolescents at risk of suicide and develop and document an innovative technologies systematic adaptation procedure that can be applied to other GMH settings. They will accomplish this task by using qualitative research with adolescents to develop culturally appropriate stimuli for a neuropsychological assessment, develop tablet-based version of neuropsychological tests, and pilot tablet-based administration with adolescents.  Through collaborations with other departments, this research study brings an innovative method to DGHI which can be used in the validation of future tools used in South Asia. 

Caregiver Mediated Early Autism Intervention in Africa
Lauren Franz and colleagues (including the co-developers of the intervention Dr. Geraldine Dawson and Dr. Sally Rogers) will draft a version of the Parent Early Start Denver Model (P-ESDM), a caregiver-mediated early autism spectrum disorders (ASD) intervention for use in an African setting. In order to produce the adapted P-ESDM intervention, the research team will answer 3 key questions: 1) What are the core components of P-ESDM? 2) What is the adaptable periphery of P-ESDM? 3) What contextual factors are particularly relevant to the implementation of a caregiver-mediated ASD early intervention in an African setting?  This research will be conducted at the Center for Autism Research in Africa (Director: Professor de Vries) at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. It will form the foundation for future work proposed by Dr. Franz that aims to assess the acceptability, feasibility, and impact of this brief caregiver-mediated intervention for autism adapted for use in a low resource setting. 

Validating a culturally-adapted screening tool for perinatal depression in Kenya
Eric Green and colleagues plan to develop and validate a screening instrument for perinatal depression in Kenya that can be administered to women regardless of literacy level through an automated phone call or in-person by a lay health worker or provider in a primary care setting. By answering these research questions, Green will yield a tool that can be automated and easily used by lay providers to increase the accuracy of screening for depression and monitoring treatment response in low-resource settings. 

The GMH Initiative has started an exciting speaker series that begins this month. The Initiative and International Partnerships for Innovative Healthcare Delivery (IPIHD) are co-hosting Chris Underhill, founder of BasicNeeds, to discuss the integration of social entrepreneurship and an innovative approach to mental health treatment worldwide. 

Please join us in welcoming Underhill on Wednesday, 29th October at 4:00 pm and sign up for the GMH interest group for updated information on the continued speaker series and related GMH announcements. 


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Brandon Kohrt Performing GMH Research

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