The International Center for Child Health and Development (ICHAD) and SMART Africa Centers at the Brown School recently published a supplemental issue titled, “South to South Collaboration to Strengthen Child and Adolescent Mental Health in Sub-Saharan Africa” in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the official publication of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. The supplement showcases results from years of research conducted in partnership with researchers from the global north and south. This body of work cuts across social work, medicine, public health, community mental health for children and adolescents, and family development.
Globally, one in seven adolescents has a mental health disorder. The majority live in low and middle-income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), high rates of poverty, violence and inadequate mental health systems exacerbate the prevalence of serious mental health needs, especially among children and adolescents, and impede adequate responses. Yet, mental health policy in SSA is still at an early stage and specifically focused on the development of guidelines or identifying workforce shortages.
“In order to adequately address mental health needs among children and adolescents in the region, serious consideration needs to be given to context-specific influences within SSA, such as mental health-related stigma, skepticism of professional responses, the large number of children and adolescents affected by HIV and AIDS, and the lack of family economic opportunities” said, Fred Ssewamala, the William E. Gordon Distinguished Professor and Founding Director of ICHAD, and Co-Director of the SMART Africa Center.
In April 2021, ICHAD and SMART Africa centers hosted the 5th Annual Conference on Child Behavioral Health in Sub-Saharan Africa, to share research findings and lessons learned from the multi country SMART Africa study conducted in Uganda, Kenya, Ghana in partnership with South Africa. As part of the conference, the centers commissioned a call for abstracts that would highlight recent advances in child behavioral health in SSA –a region disproportionately affected by child and adolescent mental health disparities. The call resulted in a peer-reviewed supplement including eight solid manuscripts developed from these abstracts, as well as additional manuscripts highlighting results from the NIMH-funded SMART Africa collaboration and several NIH-funded ICHAD studies, including Suubi4Her,Suubi+Adherence, Suubi4Stigma and Suubi Maka.
The supplement features research articles that examine the impact of multimodal community- and family-level interventions that created supportive contexts to promote mental health and health outcomes among children, adolescents and young adults in SSA. The supplement also includes research articles that examine protective and risk factors in child and adolescent mental health outcomes in the region. Also worth highlighting is the fact that all articles in the supplement are either led or co-led by scholars from the global south, specifically SSA, and many are early career researchers, including doctoral students.
“As we celebrate our 10th year anniversary, we hope that our readers would be able to understand the magnitude and complexity of child and adolescent mental health including comorbid conditions in low-resource settings, and also learn promising innovative approaches related to scaling evidence-based child and adolescent mental health interventions in low resource settings.” said Ssewamala.
Below is a complete list of published papers:
Ssewamala FM, Brathwaite R, Sensoy Bahar O, Namatovu P, Neilands TB, Kiyingi J, Huang KY, McKay MM. The Post-intervention Impact of Amaka Amasanyufu on Behavioral and Mental Health Functioning of Children and Adolescents in Low-Resource Communities in Uganda: Analysis of a Cluster-Randomized Trial From the SMART Africa-Uganda Study (2016-2022). J Adolesc Health. 2023 May;72(5S): S3-S10. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2022.09.035.
Nabayinda J, Kizito S, Ssentumbwe V, Namatovu P, Sensoy Bahar O, Damulira C, Nabunya P, Kiyingi J, Namuwonge F, Mwebembezi A, McKay MM, Ssewamala FM. The Relationship Between Family Cohesion and Depression Among School-Going Children With Elevated Symptoms of Behavioral Challenges in Southern Uganda. J Adolesc Health. 2023 May;72(5S): S11-S17. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2022.12.016.
Nabunya P, Namuwonge F, Sensoy Bahar O, Ssentumbwe V, Migadde H, Mugisha J, Ssewamala FM. Stigma by Association, Parenting Stress, and the Mental Health of Caregivers of Adolescents Living With HIV in Uganda. JAdolesc Health. 2023 May;72(5S): S18-S23. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2022.08.017.
Byansi W, Ssewamala FM, Neilands TB, Mwebembezi A, Nakigozi G. Patterns of and Factors Associated With Mental Health Service Utilization Among School-Going Adolescent Girls in Southwestern Uganda: A Latent Class Analysis. J Adolesc Health. 2023 May;72(5S): S24-S32. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2022.09.037. PMID: 37062580.
Filiatreau LM, Tutlam NT, Brathwaite R, Byansi W, Namuwonge F, Mwebembezi A, Sensoy Bahar O, Nabunya P, Neilands TB, Cavazos-Rehg P, McKay MM, Ssewamala FM. Effects of a combination economic empowerment and family strengthening intervention on psychosocial well-being among Ugandan adolescent girls and young women: analysis of a cluster randomized controlled trial from the Suubi4Her study. J Adolesc Health. 2023 May;72(5S):S33S40. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2022.11.250.
Kizito S, Nabayinda J, Neilands TB, Kiyingi J, Namuwonge F, Damulira C, Nabunya P, Nattabi J, Ssewamala FM. A Structural Equation Model of the Impact of a Family-Based Economic Intervention on Antiretroviral Therapy Adherence Among Adolescents Living With HIV in Uganda. J Adolesc Health. 2023 May;72(5S): S41-S50. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2022.12.012.
Tutlam NT, Filiatreau LM, Byansi W, Brathwaite R, Nabunya P, Sensoy Bahar O, Namuwonge F, Ssewamala FM. The Impact of Family Economic Empowerment Intervention on Psychological Difficulties and Prosocial Behavior Among AIDS-Orphaned Children in Southern Uganda. J Adolesc Health. 2023 May;72(5S): S51-S58. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2023.01.002.
Azasu EK, Joe S. Correlates of Suicide Among Middle and High School Students in Ghana. J Adolesc Health. 2023 May;72(5S): S59-S63. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2022.09.036.