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  • Writer's pictureEmpower Through Health

Destigmatizing Mental Health

Hello friends of ETH,

Hope you are well.

As many may have already heard, just earlier this week history was made with the World Health Organization's decision to recommend the RTS,S malaria vaccine! The revolutionary vaccine was recommended for use throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria transmission rates- particularly among children- are high. We welcome the announcement with much excitement and look forward to being able to incorporate the vaccine into our immunization program.

Spotlight #2: Mental Health (Williams College, Uganda Christian University, Ohio State University) Last time, we gave you an in-depth look at the work our helminthic infections team completed this past summer during the Global Health Experiential Fellowship (GHEF). Now, we would like to focus on that of our second session mental health team, consisting of: Chelsea Taylor, Nina van der Velde, Rebecca Kim, and Curtis Liu of Williams College, Katongole Ivan and Asasira Mildred of Uganda Christian University, and Alyssa Walsh and Jolee Hatfield-King of Ohio State University. Second session fellows on the mental health team were in the unique position of being able to build off of what the first session team had accomplished. Based on the results of their 100 KAP surveys, fellows on the session 1 mental health team had concluded a number of false perceptions regarding mental health existed in nearby communities. All in all, such misconceptions seemed to make up a serious stigma that would need to be addressed to improve health outcomes for those afflicted with disorders like schizophrenia and epilepsy. To begin undertaking the complex task of destigmatization, fellows worked with VHTs to produce a touring play about mental health and its proper treatment. In order to put on the best play possible, a competition was held between groups of VHTs in which other VHTs served as judges, choosing the best play that would go on to tour several villages. Fellows were able to host showings of their destigmatization play in 10 different villages, helping reach roughly 2,000 individuals in all. To assess the play’s efficacy at changing local perceptions about mental health, fellows gave 58 follow-up surveys to residents who had attended the play. Residents were asked about ways in which the play had changed their perception of mental health, as well as how they might seek help for mental health disorders in the future (i.e. traditional healer vs. biomedical doctor). Currently, mental health team fellows from both sessions are beginning to analyze results of these surveys so that they can ultimately be compiled and published in a scientific journal!

"The six weeks I spent working on the Mental Health Team were both incredibly productive and incredibly fun. Since our goal was to assess the effectiveness of theater as a tool for destigmatization, we had a pretty unique project, and working with the VHTs and getting to see what kinds of plays they came up with was definitely my favorite part of it (the musical numbers in particular were a lot of fun). Things didn’t always go according to plan; we sometimes had some trouble with things getting lost in translation, and the laid-back attitude towards timing in the villages took some getting used to, but having an unpredictable schedule became part of the routine. Overall, it was so exciting to see after our follow-up survey that we were actually able to lower stigma and begin to make a real difference. Being able to do that while getting to know some amazing people and places was such a rewarding experience.” - Nina van der Velde (Williams ‘24) Stay tuned for our next spotlight, focusing on our contraception & family planning team!


In other news...

Episode 2 of the Empower Through Health Video Log is out NOW! Check it out here:


As always, we want to thank contacts like you for your continued support. Your engagement is an integral part of the work we do and we greatly appreciate it.

Sincerely, Nick To subscribe to the Empower Through Health Newsletter, click here!

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