Kuule Yusuf, PCO, is the mental health lead at Bwindi Community Hospital. Dr Holly Tyson is a UK GP with an interest in mental health, who is working there for 12 months. Together they began to look for an effective and sustainable psychological treatment for the many people presenting there with depression. They found that Group Interpersonal Therapy (IPT-G) had been successfully rolled out elsewhere in Uganda and that the trainers were still active locally.
They devised and costed a Group IPT pilot scheme of initial training of local staff, to be followed by roll out of three 8 week IPT groups over the coming six months. If found to be successful, Bwindi Hospital Management committed to making it part of the hospital’s ongoing mental health workplan.
Jamie’s Fund has been supporting the mental health team at Bwindi for some years as they work to deliver mental healthcare across their remote community. So Kuule and Holly asked if Jamie’s Fund would support the training. We were pleased to be able to help with sponsoring the training.
Moderate to severe depression is said by the World Health Organisation to be responsible for a very significant personal, economic and social burden globally. Antidepressant medication can be effective, but for many people, the underlying causes also need to be recognised and addressed. Across the world, these are often to do with relationships and loss. Additionally, in low income countries, reliable and affordable supplies of medication may be limited.
This is why the WHO mental health training for non-specialist staff, mhGAP, includes Group Interpersonal Therapy as a front line treatment for depression. In a collective social culture like Uganda, group interventions can be particularly acceptable and powerful. IPT focuses on understanding the links between the person’s mood and their interpersonal difficulties, and on finding new ways to deal with these difficulties.
Having brought the IPT trainers over to Bwindi in late February, the first steps towards a new service have already been taken. We will post updates as we get them.
Linda Shuttleworth, March 2020.