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PhD Students

The TRANSFORM programme is supporting three PhD candidates at the University of Warwick; one from Bangladesh, and two from Nigeria, by enabling them to carry out their primary research activities in their home countries.

Warwick Medical School welcomes Tolulope Bella-AwusahLink opens in a new window and Adeola OduguwaLink opens in a new window from Nigeria and Nadia Alam from Bangladesh.

Students were selected after a competitive process and commenced their doctoral studies in April 2022. The PhD topics include projects that are nested within TRANSFORM and stand-alone projects that are closely aligned to the TRANSFORM research priorities.

At least two University of Warwick-based supervisors and one partner country-based supervisor are allocated to each student for their PhDs.

Tolulope Bella-Awusah

Proposed study title: Mental wellbeing, resilience and help-seeking among socially disadvantaged youth Living in selected slum areas of Ibadan, Nigeria

Summary: Young people make up about a sixth of the world population, and majority of them live in low-and middle-income countries (LMIC), such as the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Youth in these contexts who also live in areas of social disadvantage are particularly vulnerable, and often have challenges maintaining good mental health in the face of adversity. This study aims to generate new knowledge on the mental wellbeing, coping, and help-seeking behaviours of socially disadvantaged youth living in selected slum areas of Ibadan, Nigeria.

The following research questions will be explored: What are youths understanding of mental wellbeing and mental health challenges; how do they cope in the face of adversity; and how and where do they seek help for mental health challenges?

Tolu joins the TRANSFORM team from the University of Ibadan and started her PhD in March 2022. She is supervised by Prof Domenico GiaccoLink opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window, Dr Sagar JilkaLink opens in a new window and Dr Ursula ReadLink opens in a new window.

Adeola Oduguwa

Proposed study title: Experiences, Wellbeing and Needs of Children of Persons with Serious Mental Illness (CoPSMI) in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs).

Summary: Serious mental illnesses (SMI) have far-reaching effects that transcend the affected individual to family members, including children who are often unrecognised by health and social services. Studies have shown that up to 75% of persons with SMIs are parents and there is a steady rise in the number of persons with SMI who have parental responsibility. Children exposed to parental serious mental illness have been reported to be at significantly greater risks for multiple psychosocial problems, have higher rates of developing a mental health problem, lower academic capability and attainment, poor socio-economic outcomes, and difficult social relationships. However, data about children of parents with serious mental illness (CoPSMI) are from high-income-countries (HICs). Even though majority of the world’s children live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and as high as 30% of them live with a parent or guardian with a mental health problem, there is a dearth of information about this group of children. More worrisome are CoPSMI who live in slum communities as they have to contend with the challenges that come with living in a slum as well as the vulnerabilities that come with having a parent with SMI.

This study therefore aims to achieve the following: (a) determine the scope of and synthesise available literature on CoPSMI in LMICs and (b) determine the wellbeing, experiences and intervention needs of CoPSMI in selected slum communities in Ibadan, Nigeria.

Adeola joins the TRANSFORM team from the University of Ibadan and started her PhD in January 2022. She is supervised by Dr Helena TuomainenLink opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window,Link opens in a new window Dr Sagar JilkaLink opens in a new window and Prof Swaran SinghLink opens in a new window.

Nadia Alam

Proposed Title: Digital Phenotyping to identify Serious Mental Disorders among Slum Residents

Summary: The diagnosis of mental health conditions is dependent on a physician or psychologist’s deduction from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders (DSM) based on a patient’s symptoms and self-reported experiences However, the identification, assessment and monitoring of mental health problems has undergone several changes over the past few decades. Technology has helped in understanding mental health, seeking help and monitoring various behaviors, and integrating technology with novel data science methods has created a new arena of “digital phenotyping” to make diagnoses, prediction and monitoring more objective. In digital phenotyping, smart devices are used as a lens through ambient sensors to collect data mined from these devices to understand mental health status. Given that approximately five billion people use smartphones alone digital phenotyping is a plausible and cost-effective approach to not just help detect mental conditions, but also help in assessment and monitoring. Digital phenotyping has been adopted in several areas of mental health and has gained significant ground. Our focus is on serious mental disorders (SMD) in slums, which includes severe mood disorders (such as major depressive disorder) and psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia) based on the TRANSFORM project. In Bangladesh, the treatment gap is over 92%, and the gap is more evident in slums. People living in slum communities have high rates of SMDs, limited access to mental health services and conditions of chronic hardship. Therefore, a low-cost, easy to use, solution to support identification and monitoring of mental disorders is needed and digital phenotyping may provide a solution.

The following research questions will be explored: Which digital markers are acceptable and available through digital devices and online activity in LMIC settings? Which digital markers have a reliable, detectable and reproducible signal for the assessment and monitoring of SMDs in LMIC settings? Are these digital biomarkers sensitive enough to be used to identify EWS and relapse among residents of Korail slum? What is the relationship between these data and SMDs?

Nadia joins the TRANSFORM team from the University of Ibadan and started her PhD in October 2022. She is supervised by Dr Sagar Jilka, Dr Domenico GiaccoLink opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window, and Prof Swaran Singh.Link opens in a new window