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Mental Health in Developing Countries


In 2000, the category of neuropsychiatric conditions was a larger source of burden of disease, as measured by disability-adjusted-life-years (DALYs), than any other category of disease, in the world as a whole. Even in less developed regions where infectious and parasitic diseases are prominent, mental disorders are an important source of DALYs. The mission of the Department of Mental Health and its location in a School of Public Health make it unique in the world. This project leverages that location to connect to public health efforts in low-resource areas around the globe. Lowering the disabilities associated with mental disorder is logical for developing countries because these disorders have early onset and are often chronic, with the potential for long-term drain on social resources. Recent research has indicated that low-cost therapies which do not require physicians can be adapted to low-resource settings, and can be implemented effectively.

The Program and Population:

This project will organize and reinforce current collaborative relationships with other departments in the school of public health, particularly with the Department of International Health, to encourage the inclusion of mental health issues in current and developing projects. Research collaborations are being developed around practical outcome evaluations such as those typically funded by non-governmental organizations.

One collaboration this year was with a large international humanitarian agency to evaluate their Global Children in Crisis programs, with particular focus on well-being of street children. In Indonesia we are evaluating a counseling program for conflict-affected adults provided by nonprofessionals, with a focus on symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

This year we applied to the public health authority in Abu Dhabi to consult on design of primary care psychiatric services within the primary health care system, a strategy that may be useful in the range of low resource settings. Other future projects include a proposed study of perinatal depression among HIV infected mothers in Brazi; and an evaluation of a mental health treatment program for survivors of torture in Cambodia.


Current projects are funded in part by the Victims of Torture Fund, which is part of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and by World Vision, an international humanitarian agency.

Study Team:

Judith Bass, Ph.D.
Paul Bolton, MBBS (Department of International Health)
Anita Everett, M.D. (Division of Community Psychiatry, Bayview Hospital)
Pierre Alexandre, Ph.D.
William W. Eaton, Ph.D.


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