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Presidential Panel

Tipping the Scales for Global Mental Health: Improving Access to Effective Interventions Following Trauma

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In the past decade, increasing efforts have been made to make evidence-based interventions available for trauma-affected populations worldwide. To increase access to these interventions, scalable strategies have been developed, including task-shifting and task-sharing approaches and digital technologies. This panel will highlight the current state of the evidence, present the latest research on scalable interventions among adults and children, and outline next steps to undertake for research and implementation. Dr. Kenneth Carswell will present the work WHO has conducted in designing and evaluating task-sharing and digital interventions over the past years, as well as projects underway. Dr. Eirini Karyotaki will present her research in which she performed meta-analysis on individual patient data from trials examining task-sharing interventions worldwide, and she will also focus on what intervention works best for whom. Dr. Judy Bass will present her work with scalable interventions, including barriers and lessons learned during further scale-up. Finally, Dr. Usman Hamdani will present results of a scalable interventions for children in Pakistan, and will also outline the research steps needed to bring the field further, in line with research strategies of international funding agencies (e.g., Wellcome Trust).


Marit Sijbrandij, PhD, is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Department of Clinical, Neuro- and ‎Developmental Psychology at VU University [Vrije Universiteit], Amsterdam, the Netherlands, ‎and Director of the WHO Collaborating Center at VU University.‎ Her areas of research are prevention, (early) interventions and public mental health ‎interventions for mental disorders in populations exposed to trauma and adversities, ‎including refugee populations and populations in low- and middle-income countries.‎ She has completed multiple trials evaluating prevention and early intervention ‎strategies in the acute aftermath of trauma and adversities for prevention of common mental ‎health symptoms including posttraumatic disorder (PTSD).‎ She is the current president of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS).

Judy Bass, PhD MPH, is a Professor and Vice Chair for Education in the Department of Mental ‎Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her areas of expertise include ‎designing and evaluating methods for assessing mental health across cultures and investigating ‎the effectiveness and implementation of innovative prevention and intervention strategies in ‎collaboration with in-country service providers. Dr. Bass has been involved in trials of task-‎sharing mental health interventions in LMIC settings since 2001, leading trials with trauma-‎affected populations in Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda as well as ‎collaborating on trials in Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, Iraq, Myanmar, Colombia, and ‎Ukraine. Current research includes evaluation of integrated mental health programs, ‎development and rigorous evaluation of measures for assessing program implementation, as ‎well as bringing programmatic learnings from LMIC contexts to Baltimore. Dr. Bass is involved ‎in training and capacity building of global mental health researchers through ongoing field-‎based research projects and as director of a NIMH T32 program for doctoral and post-doctoral ‎fellows in global mental health.  ‎

Ken Carswell, DClinPsy, has a background in clinical psychology and is a Mental Health Specialist with the WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Use in Geneva. He is the departmental focal point for innovation, digital mental health and scalable psychological interventions. He has been centrally involved in the development, testing, and more recently, implementation of WHO scalable psychological interventions for populations affected by adversity. These include Self-Help Plus, a multi-media stress management course, which is being used widely across Ukraine, and Step-by-Step, an online self-help intervention for depression, which is available as a free service across Lebanon. Most recently he has led the development of a WHO chatbot for adolescent and youth called STARS, which is currently being tested in a randomised controlled trial in Jordan.

Eirini Karyotaki, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Department of ‎Clinical, Neuro- and Developmental Psychology, VU Amsterdam (VUA). Her research focuses ‎on examining the effectiveness of psychotherapy in treating depression, with a special ‎interest in alternative intervention delivery modes like digital interventions and task-‎sharing. Her research has focused on novel ways of analysing individual patient data to ‎answer questions such as who benefits most from what type of treatment (precision ‎medicine). Dr. Karyotaki has specialised in conducting systematic reviews, including ‎conventional and individual participant data meta-analyses, but also has performed ‎epidemiological, effectiveness, and implementation research. She has been involved in ‎several international projects, such as the WHO World Mental Health International College ‎Student (WMH-ICS) Initiative and the development of treatment guidelines, such as the ‎World Health Organization (WHO) Mental Health Gap Program (2016 & 2022). Along with ‎research, Dr. Karyotaki is the director of the research master's programme in Clinical and ‎Developmental Psychopathology (VUA) and a lecturer in systematic reviews, diagnostic ‎interviewing, and writing and presenting courses. She has (co) authored more than 130 ‎peer-reviewed papers.

Dr. Usman Hamdani, MB, BS, PhD is Research Lead in the Mental Health Translation team at ‎Wellcome Trust where he leads the portfolio of non-pharmacological ‎interventions and stratification in mental health research. Prior to joining Wellcome, Usman was ‎extensively involved in conducting cutting edge trials of psychosocial interventions in global mental ‎health research and policy impact in low-resource settings.  ‎