Displaced populations’ access to mental health services in Uganda and Bangladesh
Exploring displaced people’s access to mental health services through research with Rohingya displacees in Bangladesh and South Sudanese displacees in Uganda.
By carrying out qualitative research with both displacees and healthcare providers into practices, experiences and factors shaping displacees’ access to mental healthcare, the study will identify barriers and opportunities for improving mental health provision and support. Recognising that health inequalities affect displaced populations in gendered ways, we will pay particular attention to gender as a significant determinant of both mental health needs and access to services.
Choice of case studies
In Bangladesh and Uganda, influxes of refugees from neighbouring conflicts in recent years make them ideal case studies for exploring the effectiveness of humanitarian healthcare assistance in the post-emergency phase. In both contexts, mental health services, largely provided by humanitarian agencies, include educating displacees about psychosocial support, holding one-on-one and group counselling sessions. This project is designed to provide the essential pilot work for identifying feasible, equitable and sustainable options for targeting the mental health of displacees, to allow for a future large grant (e.g., UKRI GCRF) that will directly test methods to improve mental health outcomes for these groups.
At each research site, interviews will be conducted with displacees who have accessed mental health services exploring factors that mediate their access, their experience of such services and perception of the adequacy and appropriateness of existing interventions. To get a deeper understanding about displacees’ (male and female) mental health practices and needs, we will also collect data about their perception of the causes underlying mental health issues, community-based practices around treatment, and how traditional and cultural strategies for treating mental health issues are influenced by experiences of displacement.
Alongside this, interviews will be carried out with service providers and actors involved in policymaking in these contexts. The research explores how humanitarian and development organisations are currently engaging with refugee mental health, their perceptions about gendered needs, practices and access, and what challenges they experience in providing support.
In the second half of the project, two workshops will be organised with institutional actors and displacee participants to disseminate findings and engage with them in producing knowledge to improve displacees’ access to mental health services and outcomes. Through these workshops we aim to develop a stake-holder advisory group to support the development of the follow-on larger grant application that will aim to trial methods of improving displacees’ access to these services.