Elliot Goldner

research

Expanding mental health care for adults, children in Vietnam

January 27, 2016
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By Marianne Meadahl

Simon Fraser University health sciences researchers have been granted up to $1.5 million from Grand Challenges Canada, which is funded by the Government of Canada, and the Vietnamese Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) to help reduce the mental illness care gap in Vietnam.

Elliot Goldner, director of the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction (CARMHA), and Vu Cong Nguyen, deputy director of the Institute of Population, Health and Development in Vietnam, will be leading a team of global health researchers from Vietnam, Australia and Canada. The team will implement the Mental Health in Adults & Children – Frugal Innovations project aimed at alleviating one of the most prevalent mental disorders:  depression.

The project also involves SFU health sciences researchers John O’Neil and Charles Goldsmith, and PhD student Jill Murphy.

The initiative will train primary Vietnamese health care workers to screen for the population for depression. Currently, the country’s 90 million people are served by just 37 psychiatric hospitals.

 Health workers will also learn to help adults with depression achieve a routine of self-care through a supported self-management (SSM) approach.

In Canada, SSM interventions have been widely implemented as an inexpensive and effective approach to delivering mental health care to a large number of individuals with depression.

The project follows a feasibility study substantiating the SSM model as a highly achievable and cost-effective innovation that could fill a critical gap in Vietnam’s mental health services.

As part of the project, Goldner and his team will also pilot an intervention to deliver child mental health care through parents. The intervention, which will teach coping skills to families over the phone or Internet, is a highly acclaimed program developed by project collaborators Patrick McGrath and Patricia Pottie of the Strongest Families Institute in Nova Scotia.

In Vietnam, like many other regions of the world, depressive and anxiety disorders among adults, and anxiety and disruptive behaviour disorders among children are common.

“While primary healthcare services are accessible to the general population, primary health care staff have not been trained to recognize and treat depression or other common mental health problems,” says Goldner. The new project will help to diminish stigma regarding mental illness and foster development of services and supports in communities throughout Vietnam.

He adds: “While this project is specific to Vietnam, the framework used to address mental illness will be applicable to other countries that are working to improve the availability of mental health services.”