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King's and LSHTM drive mental health research in Africa

Posted on 10/09/2015
DELTAS-puff

Researchers from the joint Centre for Global Mental Health (CGMH) at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine are among the recipients of major funding from the Wellcome Trust and the Department for International Development (DFID) to establish cutting-edge research and training programmes across Africa.

The DELTAS Africa programmes establish world-class research environments at African universities with a strong focus on creating training opportunities for the next generation of researchers.

One of the DELTAS Africa awardees is Dr Dixon Chibanda from the University of Zimbabwe, who will receive £4.1 million of funding to lead the African Mental Health Research Initiative (AMARI) alongside awardees from Africa, Dr Melanie Abas and Dr Charlotte Hanlon of the Health Services & Population Research Department at the IoPPN, Professor Ricardo Araya and Prof Helen Weiss from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Professor Frances Cowan of UCL.

AMARI will build an African-led network of high-quality mental health research programmes in countries where there is little or no investment, including Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Researchers in these countries will be trained to understand the burden of mental health within populations, as well as risk factors such as poverty and HIV.

The project utilises African healthcare workers trained in low intensity cognitive behaviour therapy to help individuals cope with the stresses of daily life as well as common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Dr Abas, Professor Araya and Dr Hanlon from CGMH will co-ordinate access to the world-class mental health researchers required to train these healthcare workers, as well as contributing to curriculum development and delivering courses in academic leadership and advanced research methods.

Dr Abas said: ‘Mental health disorders linked to HIV, poverty and gender-based violence are a mounting burden in sub-Saharan Africa - yet the discipline is vastly underserved with only limited intervention programmes available. AMARI will seek to establish a sustainable career pipeline for these researchers with the emphasis on integrating mental health research into existing programmes such as HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health.’

Professor Araya said: 'The Centre for Global Mental Health is proud to be part of this consortium to increase capacity building in Africa. This award recognises the huge contribution the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and King’s is making to mental health globally.'

Dr Chibanda said: ‘There is now overwhelming evidence showing the comorbidity of mental disorders with both communicable and non-communicable disorders. In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, a large proportion of people living with HIV suffer from common mental disorders but there is nothing designed to address this challenge. To be able to design, implement and scale-up such complex interventions aimed at tackling the treatment gap, we need highly skilled researchers training and working here in sub-Saharan Africa.’

AMARI is one of more than 40 research projects in over 30 countries worldwide involving the Centre for Global Mental Health (CGMH), a partnership between the IoPPN at King’s Health Partners and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Dr Abas, Professor Araya and colleagues at the IoPPN and CGMH work on a number of initiatives in Zimbabwe, including the the ‘Friendship Bench’, a mental health intervention delivered by community health workers, and ‘Improving Mental Health Education and Research in Zimbabwe’ (IMHERZ), a programme of education and research which has boosted the number of psychiatrists in the country.

Notes to editors

For further media information please contact Jack Stonebridge, Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London on +44 (0) 20 7848 5377 or jack.stonebridge@kcl.ac.uk.

For further information about King’s visit our ‘King’s in Brief’ page.

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