Mental health in humanitarian settings

Mental health in humanitarian settings

Complex humanitarian emergencies and other low-resource settings can be exceedingly difficult places to provide quality mental health (MH) care. Yet these environments also often have a high burden of mental health care needs. This collection presents a set of articles describing how MSF teams have adapted and evaluated ways of bringing clinically impactful MH care to neglected communities and patients—from forcibly displaced populations in northern Nigeria to Syrian refugees in Lebanon and typhoon survivors in the Philippines. It also highlights work on developing new tools for providing clinical supervision and for identifying those patients most in need of care in fragile settings, and on new approaches to delivering MH services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

9 result(s)
Journal Article > ResearchFull Text
Glob Ment Health (Camb). 2022 October 21; 1-8.
Böhm BKeane GKarimet MPalma M
Glob Ment Health (Camb). 2022 October 21; 1-8.
BACKGROUND
Specialised mental health (MH) care providers are often absent or scarcely available in low resource and humanitarian settings (LRHS), making MH training and supervision for general health care workers (using task-sharing approaches) essential to scaling up services and reducing the treatment gap for severe and common MH conditions. Yet, the diversity of settings, population types, and professional skills in crisis contexts complicate these efforts. A standardised, field tested instrument for clinical supervision would be a significant step towards attaining quality standards in MH care worldwide.

METHODS
A competency-based clinical supervision tool was designed by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) for use in LRHS. A systematic literature review informed its design and assured its focus on key clinical competencies. An initial pool of behavioural indicators was identified through a rational theoretical scale construction approach, tested through waves of simulation and reviewed by 12 MH supervisors in seven projects where MSF provides care for severe and common MH conditions.

RESULTS
Qualitative analysis yielded two sets of competency grids based on a supervisee's professional background: one for ‘psychological/counselling’ and another for ‘psychiatric/mhGAP’ practitioners. Each grid features 22–26 competencies, plus optional items for specific interventions. While the structure and content were assessed as logical by supervisors, there were concerns regarding the adequacy of the tool to field reality.

CONCLUSIONS
Humanitarian settings have specific needs that require careful consideration when developing capacity-building strategies. Clinical supervision of key competencies through a standardised instrument represents an important step towards ensuring progress of clinical skills among MH practitioners.
Journal Article > ResearchFull Text
Confl Health. 2022 July 15; Volume 16 (Issue 1); 41.
Torre SMCarreño CSordo LLlosa AEOusley J et al.
Confl Health. 2022 July 15; Volume 16 (Issue 1); 41.
BACKGROUND
Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) programs are essential during humanitarian crises and in conflict settings, like Nigeria’s Borno State. However, research on how types of traumatic stress and symptom severity affect clinical improvement is lacking in these contexts, as is consensus over how long these patients must engage in mental health care to see results.

METHODS
Records from 11,709 patients from the MHPSS program in Pulka and Gwoza local government areas in Borno State, Nigeria from 2018 and 2019 were retrospectively analyzed. Patient information, symptoms, stress type, severity (CGI-S scale), and clinical improvement (CGI-I and MHGS scales) were assessed by the patient and counselor. Associations between variables were investigated using logistic regression models.

RESULTS
Clinical improvement increased with consultation frequency (OR: 2.5, p < 0.001 for CGI-I; OR: 2, p < 0.001 for MHGS), with patients who received three to six counseling sessions were most likely to improve, according to severity. Survivors of sexual violence, torture, and other conflict/violence-related stressors were nearly 20 times as likely to have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (OR: 19.7, p < 0.001), and depression (OR: 19.3, p < 0.001) symptomatology. Children exposed to conflict-related violence were also almost 40 times as likely to have PTSD (OR: 38.2, p = 0.002). Most patients presented an improvement in outcome at discharge, per both counselors (92%, CGI-I) and self-rating scores (73%, MHGS).

CONCLUSION
We demonstrate a threshold at which patients were most likely to improve (3 sessions for mild or moderate patients; 6 sessions for severe). In addition, we identify the specific types of stress and symptom severity that affected the number of sessions needed to achieve successful outcomes, and highlight that some stress types (especially torture or having a relative killed) were specifically linked to PTSD and depression. Therefore, we emphasize the importance of classifying patient stress type and severity to identify the appropriate duration of care needed.
Journal Article > ResearchFull Text
Confl Health. 2022 February 14; Volume 16 (Issue 1); 6.
Ibragimov KPalma MKeane GOusley JCarreño C et al.
Confl Health. 2022 February 14; Volume 16 (Issue 1); 6.
BACKGROUND
'Tele-Mental Health (MH) services' are an increasingly important way to expand care to underserved groups in low-resource settings. In order to continue providing psychiatric, psychotherapeutic and counselling care during COVID-19-related movement restrictions, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), a humanitarian medical organization, abruptly transitioned part of its MH activities across humanitarian and resource-constrained settings to remote format.

METHODS
From June-July of 2020, investigators used a mixed method, sequential explanatory study design to assess MSF staff perceptions of tele-MH services. Preliminary quantitative results influenced qualitative question guide design. Eighty-one quantitative online questionnaires were collected and a subset of 13 qualitative follow-up in-depth interviews occurred.

RESULTS
Respondents in 44 countries (6 geographic regions), mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa (39.5%), the Middle East and North Africa (18.5%) and Asia (13.6%) participated. Most tele-MH interventions depended on audio-only platforms (80%). 30% of respondents reported that more than half of their patients were unreachable using these interventions, usually because of poor network coverage (73.8%), a lack of communication devices (72.1%), or a lack of a private space at home (67.2%). Nearly half (47.5%) of respondents felt their staff had a decreased ability to provide comprehensive MH care using telecommunication platforms. Most respondents thought MH staff had a negative (46%) or mixed (42%) impression of remote care. Nevertheless, almost all respondents (96.7%) thought tele-MH services had some degree of usefulness, notably improved access to care (37.7%) and time efficiency (32.8%). Qualitative results outlined a myriad of challenges, notably in establishing therapeutic alliance, providing care for vulnerable populations and those inherent to the communications infrastructure.

CONCLUSION
Tele-MH services were perceived to be a feasible alternative solution to in-person therapeutic interventions in humanitarian settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they were not considered suitable for all patients in the contexts studied, especially survivors of sexual or interpersonal violence, pediatric and geriatric cases, and patients with severe MH conditions. Audio-only technologies that lacked non-verbal cues were particularly challenging and made risk assessment and emergency care more difficult. Prior to considering tele-MH services, communications infrastructure should be assessed, and comprehensive, context-specific protocols should be developed.
Journal Article > CommentaryFull Text
Glob Ment Health (Camb). 2021 December 31; Volume 9; 221-222.
Böhm BPalma MOusley JKeane G
Glob Ment Health (Camb). 2021 December 31; Volume 9; 221-222.
Journal Article > LetterFull Text
Lancet Psychiatry. 2020 October 1; Volume 7 (Issue 10); e62-e63.
Mviena JLMFanne MGondo RMwamelo AJEsso L et al.
Lancet Psychiatry. 2020 October 1; Volume 7 (Issue 10); e62-e63.
Journal Article > ResearchFull Text
Int J Methods Psychiatr Res. 2020 September 18; Volume 30 (Issue 1); e1850.
Llosa AEMartinez-Viciana CCarreño CEvangelidou SCasas G et al.
Int J Methods Psychiatr Res. 2020 September 18; Volume 30 (Issue 1); e1850.
OBJECTIVE
We present the results of a cross-cultural validation of the Mental Health Global State (MHGS) scale for adults and adolescents (<14 years old).

METHODS
We performed two independent studies using mixed methods among 103 patients in Hebron, Occupied Palestinian Territories and 106 in Cauca, Colombia. The MHGS was analyzed psychometrically, sensitivity and specificity, ability to detect clinically meaningful change, compared to the Clinical Global Impression-Severity scale (CGI-S). Principal component analysis was used to reduce the number of questions after data collection.

RESULTS
The scale demonstrated good internal consistency, with a Cronbach alpha score of 0.80 in both settings. Test retest reliability was high, ICC 0.70 (95% CI [0.41-0.85]) in Hebron and 0.87 (95% CI [0.76-0.93]) in Cauca; inter-rater reliability was 0.70 (95% CI [0.42-0.85]) in Hebron and 0.76 (95% CI [0.57-0.88]) in Cauca. Psychometric properties were also good, and the tool demonstrated a sensitivity of 85% in Hebron and 100% in Cauca, with corresponding specificity of 80% and 79%, when compared to CGI-S.

CONCLUSIONS
The MHGS showed promising results to assess global mental health thereby providing an additional easy to use tool in humanitarian interventions. Additional work should focus on validation in at least one more context, to adhere to best practices in transcultural validation.
Journal Article > ReviewFull Text
PLOS One. 2020 June 25; Volume 15 (Issue 6)
Ogbe EHarmon SVan der Bergh RDegomme O
PLOS One. 2020 June 25; Volume 15 (Issue 6)
BACKGROUND
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a key public health issue, with a myriad of physical, sexual and emotional consequences for the survivors of violence. Social support has been found to be an important factor in mitigating and moderating the consequences of IPV and improving health outcomes. This study's objective was to identify and assess network oriented and support mediated IPV interventions, focused on improving mental health outcomes among IPV survivors.

METHODS
A systematic scoping review of the literature was done adhering to PRISMA guidelines. The search covered a period of 1980 to 2017 with no language restrictions across the following databases, Medline, Embase, Web of Science, PROQUEST, and Cochrane. Studies were included if they were primary studies of IPV interventions targeted at survivors focused on improving access to social support, mental health outcomes and access to resources for survivors.

RESULTS
337 articles were subjected to full text screening, of which 27 articles met screening criteria. The review included both quantitative and qualitative articles. As the focus of the review was on social support, we identified interventions that were i) focused on individual IPV survivors and improving their access to resources and coping strategies, and ii) interventions focused on both individual IPV survivors as well as their communities and networks. We categorized social support interventions identified by the review as Survivor focused, advocate/case management interventions (15 studies), survivor focused, advocate/case management interventions with a psychotherapy component (3 studies), community-focused, social support interventions (6 studies), community-focused, social support interventions with a psychotherapy component (3 studies). Most of the studies, resulted in improvements in social support and/or mental health outcomes of survivors, with little evidence of their effect on IPV reduction or increase in healthcare utilization.

CONCLUSIONS
There is good evidence of the effect of IPV interventions focused on improving access to social support through the use of advocates with strong linkages with community based structures and networks, on better mental health outcomes of survivors, there is a need for more robust/ high quality research to assess in what contexts and for whom, these interventions work better compared to other forms of IPV interventions.
Journal Article > ResearchFull Text
Community Ment Health J. 2020 January 21; Volume 56 (Issue 5); 875-884.
Al Laham DAli EMousally KNahas NAlameddine A et al.
Community Ment Health J. 2020 January 21; Volume 56 (Issue 5); 875-884.
This is a qualitative exploration of the perceptions of mental health (MH) and their influence on health-seeking behaviour among Syrian refugees and the Lebanese population in Wadi Khaled, a rural area of Lebanon bordering Syria. Eight focus group discussions and eight key informant interviews were conducted with male and female Syrian refugees and Lebanese community members from March to April 2018. MH illness was associated with stigma, shame and fear among both populations. Beliefs surrounding mental illness were strongly linked to religious beliefs, including Jinn. Religious healers were considered the first line of help for people with mental illnesses, and were perceived as culturally acceptable and less stigmatizing than MH professionals. It is essential for MH professionals to build trust with the communities in which they work. Collaboration with religious healers is key to identifying MH symptoms and creating referral pathways to MH professionals in this context.
Journal Article > ResearchFull Text
Int Health. 2016 September 12; Volume 8 (Issue 5); 336-344.
Weintraub ACGarcia MGBirri ESevery NFerir MC et al.
Int Health. 2016 September 12; Volume 8 (Issue 5); 336-344.
BACKGROUND
Severe mental disorders are often neglected following a disaster. Based on Médecins Sans Frontières' (MSF) experience of providing mental health (MH) care after the 2013 typhoon in the Philippines, we describe the monthly volume of MH activities and beneficiaries; characteristics of people seeking MH care; profile and outcomes of people with severe mental disorders; prescription of psychotropic medication; and factors facilitating the identification and management of individuals with severe mental disorders.

METHODS
A retrospective review of programme data was carried out.

RESULTS
In total, 172 persons sought MH care. Numbers peaked three months into MSF's intervention and decreased thereafter. Of 134 (78%) people with complete data, 37 (28%) had a severe mental disorder, often characterised by psychotic symptoms (n=24, 64%) and usually unrelated to the typhoon (n=32, 86%). Four people (11%) were discharged after successful treatment, two (5%) moved out of the area, 20 (54%) were referred for follow-up on cessation of MSF activities and 10 (27%) were lost-to-follow-up. Psychotropic treatment was prescribed for 33 (75%) people with mental disorders and for 11 with non-severe mental disorders.

CONCLUSIONS
This study illustrates how actors can play an important role in providing MH care for people with severe mental disorders in the aftermath of a disaster.