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Warwick research supports mental health services in Malawi

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa and despite having a total population of over 15 million, there is only one psychiatrist working in the country. Many people live in isolated rural areas and those with mental health problems often remain undiagnosed and ignored until they become a danger to themselves or their community. Sadly the traditional approach to those with untreated psychosis is to isolate them from the community, in some cases in enforced captivity.

Researchers from Warwick Medical School (WMS) are collaborating with the College of Medicine in Malawi to assess the best way of improving mental health services for those rural communities. Thanks to the support of a small grant from The Golden Bottle Trust, Dr Olive Liwimbi (College of Medicine, Malawi) has been able to visit WMS and spend time working with our experts in the Division of Mental Health and Wellbeing.

During this time she met with members of the Warwick research team who successfully introduced maternal and neo-natal health education to Malawi. On that project, WMS researchers trained clinical officers in basic obstetric and gynaecological techniques. This helped to reduce the number of mothers and babies dying during child birth and shortly after. It is thought that by introducing a similar approach to education in the field of mental health, local health workers like nurses and orderlies could be trained to identify symptoms of basic mental health problems. They would then be in a position to refer cases to the appropriate service. In this way more could be done to support those with manageable mental health issues.

By carrying out this research project in Malawi we can assess the effectiveness of the programme, which will be necessary to support its introduction on a wider scale.
We believe that raising awareness and reducing stigma around mental health is crucial, both at home and abroad. If you would like to learn more about our work in the Division of Mental Health and Wellbeing, or make a donation to support the project, contact Andrea Crowley on 02476 151 966 or email a.crowley@warwick.ac.uk