Shannon Dorsey, Adjunct Associate Professor, UW Global Health; Associate Professor, UW Psychology
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By Duke University 

The majority of the world’s population lives in low-income countries with extremely limited access to mental health care. This gap is largest in African nations, which have the world’s lowest ratio of mental health professionals: just 1.4 per 100,000 people.

For more than a decade, researchers have been exploring ways to close that gap for nearly 50 million orphans in Africa who are grieving the loss of one or both parents. HIV/AIDS and respiratory infections are the leading cause of death.

Being orphaned predicts other problems—problems like substance abuse, dropping out of school, or unemployment. Orphans are also more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior that may lead to new cases of HIV—and perpetuate a vicious circle.

The team, led by professors Kathryn Whetten at Duke University and Shannon Dorsey at the University of Washington is testing how to help orphans in the Bungoma, Kenya, region.

Their strategy? Train local people with no mental health background to provide Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT) in schools and community health centers, under the guidance of lay supervisors. The goal is to develop a blueprint for scaling up such a program on a large scale. Their work has funding from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Learn more about the project in this episode of Duke’s “Ways and Means” podcast:

Listen to the podcast