#studyGMH: How can students help tackle mental health issues?

By Georgina Miguel Esponda, MSc Global Mental Health alumna

During the MSc programme we had the opportunity to have a couple of informal gatherings with the academic staff and other guest speakers at lectures. As a result of networking through these gatherings, I had the opportunity to work as a research assistant at the Psychosocial and Epidemiological Research Unit at the National Institute of Psychiatry in Mexico City. In this position I collaborated on a binational project coordinated by Luis Zayas from the University of Texas at Austin that assessed the psychological distress caused by parent deportation to American citizen children. This research project grew out of the need to create evidence in support of advocacy for fairer immigration laws in the United States. Thousands of families in the US suffer from the incarceration and deportation of family members due to an unauthorized status. I recruited cases for the project and collected data through interviews to assess how a child’s mental health is affected when members of his or her family are in a vulnerable situation, either because of incarceration or deportation or because of the constant threat of these measures. These findings have contributed to the existing knowledge of the effects of immigration and immigration law enforcement and how this social problem is determining the lives of millions of families, and thus affecting health. This research project formed part of the evidence for extensive advocacy that led to an immigration policy reform headed by president Obama.

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Later on this year I will be starting my doctoral research project which focuses on a mhGAP based intervention being conducted in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. I hope this project will contribute to the understanding of the impacts of mhGAP based interventions1 in resource poor settings and offer insights into how such programmes can be improved to maximize the benefits to people who have traditionally had very limited access to mental healthcare.

Students can contribute with new and broader perspectives of how to tackle existing mental health issues. I think students can be benefited by opportunities to work in the field, allowing them to experience, first-hand, how mental health interventions are applied. I feel this is particularly relevant in limited resource settings, where the logistics of implementation of interventions are a major challenge that often have to be overcome in creative ways.

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1 read more about mhGAP interventions in countries including Kashmir, Nigeria, Ethiopia on our MHIN innovations webpage.

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