By: Teo Jion Chun
Evidence-based treatment must be introduced to help people living with mental health and counter the stigma that are facing, said experts in a plenary session that took place at University of Washington (UW) yesterday evening.
“As an intervention researcher, what we need to do is to show people that there are solutions, show people that you can treat the stigmatized diseases,” said Dr Jürgen Unützer, a UW Professor of Psychiatry, during the 9th Annual Western Regional International Health Conference.
The geriatric psychiatrist and health services researcher said that one’s mental health could be evaluated by looking out for possible symptoms. He compared it to how doctors measure the blood pressure level of a patient to find out if one has high blood pressure.
Another proponent of evidence-based treatments to people with mental illnesses is Dr Paul Bolton from John Hopkins University.
He highlighted one important problem that his research team faced – the lack of resources in developing countries. “It is taking years and years to make a little bit of progress to try and build awareness,” he said.
In designing the interventions, he developed training model involving trainers, supervisors, counselors and clients. The four-step approach is based on continuous feedback from trainers and clients in adapting the materials. He also discovered that open-ended methods are better tools than close questionnaires to know the problems of the people with mental illness.
Dr Bolton cited statistics from Uganda to show that the interventions are effective in bringing down the percentages of depression in the group.
He said: “One solution is that we have to do trials and see what works, otherwise everytime when we go out and access the situation, we are going to perceive that everything works.”
Another speaker Dr Deepa Rao from UW Department of Global Health spoke on her work in developing interventions to improve the quality of life of people with chronic illness and victims of violence and the extensive fieldwork on stigma reduction.
Besides the introduction of her team members, she outlined their work progress for the past year.
“We have been putting proposals to test effectiveness of depression reduction intervention in the diabetes population in India,” she said. “We are working really hard and doing something that we still have a lot of work to do and where we can go.”