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AMARI - African Mental Health Research Initiative


In May 2015, the Wellcome Trust funded the African Mental Health Research Initiative (AMARI) through the Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science (DELTAS), as the first mental health award on this programme. The overall goal of AMARI, whose Director is Dr Dixon Chibanda of the College of Health Sciences, University of Zimbabwe, is to build an Africa-led network of 47 researchers in Mental, Neurological and Substance use (MNS) disorders in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Malawi and South Africa. These fellows will be equipped to lead high-quality mental health research programmes that meet the needs of their countries.

The other goal is to establish a sustainable career pipeline for these researchers with emphasis on integrating MNS research into existing programs such as HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health. AMARI aims to expand this initiative to other African countries through collaboration and knowledge exchange across the key areas of research, programme implementation, grant writing, publication and teaching.

The King's role in AMARI, led by PI Dr Melanie Abas, is to

  • provide external supervisors to the PhD fellows. These external supervisors will be either second or third supervisors to the PhD fellows as their first will be from their home institution.
  • develop an Academic Career Enhancement Series (ACES course) for the fellows including leadership, management, strategic academic career development, work-life balance, techniques for teaching, using media to disseminate research, and presentation skills.
  • run peer-mentoring training and a peer mentoring program for the fellows.
  • run a webinar series for fellows and local supervisors.

KCL input will be developed with and co-taught by partners from the African countries in the programme.  

Staff across KCL generously support this initiative: 

  • ACES: Professor Thalia Eley and Professor Francesca Happé have kindly allowed the structure and content of their award-winning THRIVE workshop series (developed with Dr Amy Iverson) for early career researchers to be adapted into the AMARI ACES course.
  • Mentoring: Organisation Development team, Diversity & Inclusion team and others around KCL with expertise in mentoring have advised on setting up the peer mentoring scheme in AMARI.
  • Supervision: a number of academics from Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience have taken on AMARI fellows as external supervisors on their PhDs.

The Co-investigators from KCL are Dr Charlotte Hanlon and Prof Martin Prince. 

Dr Hanlon is based at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, and is responsible for running an annual two-week residential course for AMARI PhD fellows during their first year. KCL is working alongside the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) who are also AMARI partners. The LSHTM contribution is led by Prof Helen Weiss and Lorna Gibson. Prof Ricardo Araya, who leads the Centre for Global Mental Health at KCL, is also actively involved with AMARI.

For more information please contact Dr Melanie Abas or Program Leader Dr Chris Merritt.

You can find out more about the DELTAS programme here.

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