Research: Mental Health

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Research that investigated the impact of COVID-19 on individual and community mental health, including fear, stigma, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination, and which seeks to understand evidence-based solutions to build greater community trust and prevent social conflicts.

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    The world is coming to an end! COVID-19, depression, and anxiety among adolescents in Malawi
    (Frontiers, 2023) M'manga, Chilungamo; Ndasauka, Yamikani; Kainja, Jimmy; Kondowe, Fiskani; Mchenga, Martina; Maliwichi, Limbika; Nyamali, Simunye
    Introduction: This paper assessed the effects of Covid-19 on adolescent mental health in Malawi. There is minimal research on adolescent mental health in Africa, Malawi in particular. The study shows a link between the pandemic and mental health. Some factors that may have contributed to this link include; Covid-19 preventive measures, media exposure and the increase in unemployment. Methods: The study used a mixed methods approach, quantitative and qualitative methods. It was conducted in Malawi's four districts (Blantyre, Mangochi, Lilongwe and Karonga). Results: Overall 22%, 21%, and 23% of the respondents had depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, respectively. The Chi-square test showed that significantly more adolescents with secondary education (28%) had anxiety than those with primary education (14%). Further, regression analysis revealed that adolescents with anxiety were 18 [95%CI: 9.34, 35.8] times more likely to have depression compared to those who did not have anxiety. The study found no significant differences in the proportions of adolescents with the three outcomes when comparing different groups within the explanatory variable. The ratio of female and male adolescents with depression and anxiety was the same. Discussion: The adolescents expressed that Covid-19 affected their social, academic, and financial status. These effects had a significant bearing on their mental health in that they led to depression, anxiety, fear of the unknown, and stress. During the Covid-19 pandemic, adolescents' mental health diminished and posed a considerable risk to productivity of adolescents. As a result, adolescents may not fully realize their potential, form and maintain good relationships, contribute to their community and become resilient. These effects have devastating consequences for this young generation without proper coping strategies.
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    Effect of COVID-19 on Mental Health of Health Workers in Malawi (Policy Brief)
    (2024) Kainja, Jimmy; Maliwichi, Limbika; Kondowe, Fiskani; M'manga, Chilungamo; Nyamali, Simunye; Mchenga, Martina; Ndasauka, Yamikani
    Mental health or psychological well-being is integral to an individual's capacity to lead a fulfilling life, including forming and maintaining relationships, studying, working, or pursuing leisure interests and making day-to-day decisions about these issues. Disturbances to a person's mental well-being can adversely compromise their capacity to make the right choices, leading to diminished functioning at the individual level and broader welfare losses for one's household and society. A recent analysis by the World Economic Forum estimated that the cumulative global impact of mental disorders in terms of lost economic output would amount to US$ 16 trillion over the next 20 years. The estimate marks mental health as a significant concern for public health, economic development, and societal welfare. The current study by Covid-19 and Mental Health in Malawi project has also highlighted the importance of mental health and the effects of neglecting it.
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    Effect of Covid-19 on Mental Health of Adolescents in Malawi (Policy Brief)
    (2024) Kainja, Jimmy; M'manga, Chilungamo; Maliwichi, Limbika; Kondowe, Fiskani; Nyamali, Simunye; Mchenga, Martina; Ndasauka, Yamikani
    COVID-19 has profoundly affected life as COVID-19 measures requiring social isolation, movement restrictions, and economic shutdowns change the psychosocial environment worldwide. These measures can significantly threaten the mental health of children and adolescents, especially as the closure of schools meant minimal social contact and out-of-home leisure activities for adolescents. School routines are essential coping mechanisms for young people with mental health issues. When schools are closed, they lose an anchor in life, and their symptoms could relapse. Although others turned to home school with the support of their parents, the challenge was that parents were also required to work from home. The COVID-19 mitigating measures mean the absence of external support by other family members, and social support systems have fallen away. Besides worry and anxiety related to COVID-19, the economic situation has worsened with high and rising levels of unemployment worldwide. These factors have put much pressure on children, adolescents and their families, resulting in distress, mental health problems and violence. For some children with depression, there will be considerable difficulties adjusting to everyday life when school resumes. (Lancet, 2020). The Covid-19 and Mental Health in Malawi project conducted a study to assess the effects of Covid-19 on adolescents' mental health in the country. Specifically, the study looked at Covid-19-related depression, anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The study used quantitative and qualitative methods. It collected quantitative data through a survey (n=320) and qualitative data through focus group discussions (n-4), and key informant interviews (n=12) with guardians and caregivers of adolescents in Malawi. The data were collected from four districts: Blantyre, Mangochi, Lilongwe and Karonga.
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    The mental health toll among healthcare workers during the COVID‐19 Pandemic in Malawi
    (Springer Nature, 2024-05-06) Maliwichi, Limbika; Kondowe, Fiskani; Chilungamo, M'manga; Mchenga, Martina; Kainja, Jimmy; Nyamali, Simunye; Ndasauka, Yamikani
    The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the mental health of healthcare workers worldwide, with frontline personnel experiencing heightened rates of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress. This mixed-methods study aimed to assess the mental health toll of COVID-19 on healthcare workers in Malawi. A cross-sectional survey utilising the Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7), Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), and Primary Care PTSD Screen for DSM-5 (PC-PTSD-5) was conducted among 109 frontline healthcare workers. Additionally, in-depth interviews were conducted with 16 healthcare workers to explore their experiences and challenges during the pandemic. The results indicated a high prevalence of COVID-19-related depression (31%; CI [23, 41]), anxiety (30%; CI [22, 40]), and PTSD (25%; CI [17, 34]) among participants. Regression analysis revealed significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety, and PTSD among healthcare workers in city referral hospitals compared to district hospitals. Qualitative findings highlighted the emotional distress, impact on work and personal life, and experiences of stigma and discrimination faced by healthcare workers. The stress process model provided a valuable framework for understanding the relationship among pandemic-related stressors, coping resources, and mental health outcomes. The findings underscore the urgent need for interventions and support systems to mitigate the mental health impact of COVID-19 on frontline healthcare workers in Malawi. Policymakers should prioritise the assessment and treatment of mental health problems among this critical workforce to maintain an effective pandemic response and build resilience for future crises.
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    COVID-19 and Psychological Distress in Africa - Communitarian Perspectives
    (Routledge, 2024) Ndasauka, Yamikani
    This timely book draws on unique African experiences to explore the intersection between mental health and African communitarianism in the context of COVID-19, giving voice to the perspectives of vulnerable populations facing pre-existing challenges such as depression, anxiety, and stress. Advancing knowledge and contributing to the global debate about the effects of the pandemic on the psychological well-being of African people, chapters critique the role of media, information, misinformation, and disinformation during this period on individual- and community-based mental health. Using a holistic approach, the book highlights the need to prioritise the localising of mental health systems and clinical services to provide a better standard of care and comprehensive, context-specific mental health interventions that consider the heterogeneity within and between African regions. The book demonstrates through nuanced evidence and analysis that communitarian perspectives allow African societies to balance collective solidarity with individual well-being to benefit overall mental health. Ultimately drawing on communal values and localised knowledge to cultivate resilience to fight the psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 in Africa, the book will be of interest to scholars, postgraduate students and researchers exploring psychology, philosophy of mental health, and public health policy more broadly, as well as and cultural studies and the sociology of pandemics. The Open Access version of this book, available at www.taylorfrancis.com, has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) 4.0 license. Yamikani Ndasauka is Associate Professor in Department of Philosophy, University of Malawi, Malawi.
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    Assessing Effects of Covid-19 Responses on Mental Health in Malawi
    (University of Malawi, 2022-09-05) Ndasauka, Yamikani
    The Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19) pandemic has overwhelmed health systems in all countries, especially those in the least developing countries, Malawi included. As such, this project sought to investigate the effects of Covid-19 responses on mental health in Malawi in terms of perception toward mental health in general, the mental health of adolescents and health workers and mental health services. The project had three main phases, research, awareness campaign and dissemination. The study found a massive influence of culture and religion on perceptions of people with mental health. Mental health is primarily understood from cultural and religious beliefs. Further, the study found that providing mental health services amidst the pandemic has strained the already pressed and neglected health sector. On the effects of Covid-19 on the mental health of frontline health workers, the study found a high prevalence of Covid-19 related depression (31.2%, n=109), anxiety (30.3%, n=109) and PTSD (24.8%, n=109) among healthcare workers. The study also found significantly more healthcare workers with depression (36% VS 16%, P=0.06), anxiety (38% vs 1%, P<0.01), and PTSD (30% vs 8%, P=0.03) in referral hospitals compared to district hospitals. In addition, the study found that overall, 22%, 21% and 23% of the adolescent respondents had Covid-19-related depression, anxiety and PTSD. The project implemented awareness campaigns in the four districts: Lilongwe, Mangochi, Karonga, and Zomba. These awareness campaigns aimed to increase awareness of Covid-19 and its effects on mental health. The awareness campaigns in Zomba and Lilongwe were in the form of Talk-Shows, where speakers were given 10 minutes of presentation which covered the following topics; Introduction to mental Health, Mental Disorders, risk factors of Mental disorders, ways of coping with mental health problems and service providers for mental health services. In Karonga, the project targeted secondary school-going adolescents and was conducted as a variety show which saw students showcase different activities like poems, dances, songs, and drama. In Mangochi, the campaign took place for two days. The first day consisted of mental health training for Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs). On the second day, the awareness campaign was conducted in the community, utilising theatre for development, where community leaders, men, women, and youths were engaged in raising mental health awareness through their play. In all the campaigns, participants were given different mental health IEC materials. The project is disseminating the project and study outcomes by publishing three policy briefs, media coverage, five academic publications, an edited book, and five conference presentations. Aside from increasing engagement with key stakeholders, including health practitioners, policymakers, lawmakers, academia, and government officials, on mental health issues and Covid-19, the project has reached more than 100,000 people through awareness campaigns, radio jingles, and IEC materials, to pay more attention to early signs of mental health problems, prevention and coping strategies and to deal away with the stigma associated with people suffering from mental health problems.
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    Physical Activity and Depression During the COVID‐19 Pandemic in Nigeria: Does Age and Gender Make a Difference?
    (2023-11-06) Muomah, R. C.; Chukwuorji, J. C.; Nwonyi, S. K.; Tay, D. A.; Joachim, D.; Malete, L.; Adamba, C.; Nyawornota, V. K.; Nyanyofio, O. C.; Donkor, S. K.; Ocansey, R. T.
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    Self-Perception of Health and Physical Activity Levels Among the Youth and Adults Before and Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic
    (2024-05-30) Nyawornota, Vida Korleki; Adamba, Clement; Tay, Doris Akosua; Nyanyofio, Oscar C.; Muomah, Rosemary C.; Chukwuorji, JohnBosco C.; Nwonyi, Sampson K.; Malete, Leapetswe; Joachim, Dale; Ocansey, Reginald T.
    Background: Emerging research indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions led to decreased physical activity levels and poorer health globally. However, most studies on this topic have focused on advanced countries, leaving a gap in understanding the impact in countries like Ghana. This study aimed to fill this gap by assessing self-perceived health status and physical activity levels among youth and adults in Ghana before, during, and after the COVID-19 restrictions. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for informing public health interventions and policies to promote well-being during and beyond the pandemic. Methods: A cross-sectional survey using online data collection methods was conducted, involving 937 participants. Data included demographic information, and International Physical Activity Questionnaire-Short Form (IPAQ-SF). Analysis was done using SPSS version 25, with descriptive statistics and multinomial regression. Results: Most participants (89.6%) reported good health. Male participants were significantly more likely to engage in moderate (1.78 times) and high (3.17 times) physical activity during the COVID-19 period compared to females. Conclusion: This study highlights gender disparities in physical activity levels during the pandemic in Ghana. Addressing these disparities and promoting healthier lifestyles, especially during crises, is crucial for general and mental health. Further research should explore socio-demographic factors’ role in health behaviors during pandemics.