Accessibility statement

Developing social interventions for people with mental health problems in Sierra Leone

Thursday 26 September 2013, 4.00PM to 5.00pm

Speaker(s): Meredith Newlin, University of York

The 3rd seminar in the ICMHSR series focuses on an intial feasibility study which has examined the possibility of developing social interventions for people with mental health problems in Sierra Leone. 

Location: ARRC Auditorium RC/014

Audio recording of the seminar


The video referred to in the audio recording is available to watch on YouTube:


Recent estimates from the World Health Organisation (WHO) report an increase in the global burden of disease attributable to mental disorders. However, about four out of five people in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) in need of mental health services do not receive them. In Sub-Saharan Africa this treatment gap is greatest, where the proportion of people with mental health problems receiving care is as low as 2% per year in Nigeria. Nevertheless, Western medicine and therapy is arguably not universally appropriate.

In the last decade, there has been increasing recognition of the importance of addressing mental health on a global scale. The Lancet series' on global mental health in 2007 and 2011 provided a benchmark of progress and a renewed call to action to scale-up mental health services worldwide. This call emphasised evidence-based, cost-effective, and culturally appropriate interventions to address the mental health treatment gap.

Social interventions can help to fill the treatment gap for people experiencing mental distress in low and middle income countries. They have the potential to improve the quality of life and community engagement, as well as positively impact the social functioning of people with mental health problems. Previous research exploring social capital interventions in India and Malawi suggests the Connecting People Intervention (CPI), a co-productive method of helping people with mental health needs to develop social networks, could benefit low-income communities where enhancements to mental health services have potential to boost community development thereby decreasing health inequalities.

To address this need we have conducted a feasibility study identifying needs in resource-limited mental health services in Sierra Leone. Preliminary findings from the feasibility study indicated significant need for psychosocial skill training to strengthen the care available to adults with mental health problems. To ensure an iterative approach, and to continue to build an evidence base for the translation of social interventions to low-resource settings, we will work collaboratively with key stakeholders in Sierra Leone to adapt the CPI model to the local communities and build capacity of mental health workers. Early iterations of the adapted model alongside results from the feasibility study will be presented.

All are welcome to attend. For further information please contact our centre coordinator Tracey Hawkes.