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1.  Intersection of suicidality and substance abuse among young Asian-American women: implications for developing interventions in young adulthood 
Advances in dual diagnosis  2014;7(2):90-104.
The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of the current literature uncovering specific factors associated with self-harm and suicidality among young Asian American women, as well as to present the Fractured Identity Model as a framework for understanding these factors. This paper offers concrete suggestions for the development of culturally competent interventions to target suicidality, substance abuse, and mental illness among young Asian American women.
Empirical studies and theory-based papers featured in peer-reviewed journals between 1990 and 2014 were identified through scholarly databases, such as PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, JSTOR, and Google Scholar.
We identified several factors associated with suicidality among young Asian American women: (1) family dynamics, or having lived in a household where parents practice “disempowering parenting styles,” (2) substance use/abuse, and (3) untreated mental illness(es), which are exacerbated by the stigma and shame attached to seeking out mental health services. The Fractured Identity Model by Hahm et al. (2014) is presented as a possible pathway from disempowering parenting to suicidal and self-harm behaviors among this population, with substance abuse playing a significant mediating role. Research limitations/implications – Our review focused on Asian American women, substance use among Asian Americans, and mental health among Asian Americans. Literature that focused on Asians living in Asia or elsewhere outside of the USA was excluded from this review; the review was limited to research conducted in the USA and written in the English language.
Practical implications
The complex interplay among Asian American culture, family dynamics, gender roles/expectations, and mental health justifies the development of a suicide and substance abuse intervention that is tailored to the culture- and gender-specific needs of Asian Pacific Islander young women. It is imperative for professionals in the fields of public health, mental health, medicine, and substance abuse to proactively combat the “model minority” myth and to design and implement interventions targeting family dynamics, coping with immigration/acculturative stresses, mental illnesses, suicidal behaviors, and substance abuse among Asian-American populations across the developmental lifespan.
This paper provides specific suggestions for interventions to adequately respond to the mental health needs of young Asian-American women. These include addressing the cultural stigma and shame of seeking help, underlying family origin issues, and excessive alcohol and drug use as unsafe coping, as well as incorporating empowerment-based and mind-body components to foster an intervention targeting suicidality among Asian-American women in early adulthood.
PMCID: PMC4095878  PMID: 25031627
2.  Stigmatizing Attitudes towards Mental Illness among Racial/Ethnic Older Adults in Primary Care 
The current study applies the perceived stigma framework to identify differences in attitudes toward mental health and mental health treatment among various racial/ethnic minority older adults with common mental health problems including depression, anxiety disorders, or at-risk alcohol use. Specifically, this study examines to what extent race/ethnicity is associated with differences in: (1) perceived stigma of mental illness; and (2) perceived stigma for different mental health treatment options.
Analyses were conducted using baseline data collected from participants who completed the SAMHSA Mental Health and Alcohol Abuse Stigma Assessment, developed for the PRISM-E (Primary Care Research in Substance Abuse and Mental Health for the Elderly) study, a multi-site randomized trial for older adults (65+) with depression, anxiety, or at-risk alcohol consumption. The final sample consisted of 1247 non-Latino Whites, 536 African-Americans, 112 Asian-Americans, and 303 Latinos.
African-Americans and Latinos expressed greater comfort in speaking to primary care physicians or mental health professionals concerning mental illness compared to non-Latino Whites. Asian-Americans and Latinos expressed greater shame and embarrassment about having a mental illness than non-Latino Whites. Asian-Americans expressed greater difficulty in seeking or engaging in mental health treatment.
Racial/ethnic differences exist among older adults with mental illness with respect to stigmatizing attitudes towards mental illness and mental health treatment. Results of this study could help researchers and clinicians educate racial/ethnic minority older adults about mental illness and engage them in much needed mental health services.
PMCID: PMC3672370  PMID: 23361866
race/ethnicity; stigma; older adults
3.  Physician contact by older Asian Americans: the effects of perceived mental health need 
The use of physicians is more common than of behavioral specialists, especially in underserved Asian American communities. Despite a rapidly aging Asian American population, research has overlooked older people. This study examines the way mental health need affects the number of physician contacts by older Asian Americans.
This study uses data on self-identified Asian Americans aged over age 50 years derived from the 2001 California Health Interview Survey. A total of 1191 Asian Americans from Chinese, Filipino, Korean, and Vietnamese backgrounds were studied. Replicate weights were applied to account for the survey’s complex sampling methods. Linear regression was used to identify the number of physician contacts.
Overall, respondents had seen a doctor an average of five times in the previous 12 months; 7% perceived that they had a mental health need. Perceiving a mental health need was associated with a decreased number of physician contacts for Filipino and Korean Americans.
This study revealed interethnic differences among older Asian Americans’ contact with physicians. As older Filipino and Korean Americans who perceive a mental health need have fewer contacts with their physician, correctly identifying mental health needs in the health care system for these groups is crucial. Health and mental health professionals can work toward reducing mental health disparities by accounting for older Asian Americans’ help-seeking patterns when designing evidence-based interventions.
PMCID: PMC3010168  PMID: 21228898
minority groups; Asians; health service use
4.  Physical, Behavioral, and Mental Health Issues in Asian American Women: Results from the National Latino Asian American Study 
Journal of Women's Health  2011;20(11):1703-1711.
Asian American women's health has been understudied while the Asian American population is increasing. The purpose of this study was to examine the physical, behavioral, and mental health of Asian American women.
Using a nationally representative sample (n=1097) from the National Latino Asian American Study (NLAAS), the first comprehensive epidemiologic survey in the United States, we examined the annual rates of behavioral, physical, and mental healthcare service use, including general medical, specialty mental health, and any medical services, in three major subgroups of Asian American women.
Health problems varied with three major subgroups of Asian American women. In physical health, Chinese American women reported the highest rates of headache, other pain, hypertension, heart diseases, heart attacks, chronic lung diseases, and asthma. Vietnamese American women reported the highest rates of ulcer, stroke, and diabetes. Filipino American women had the highest rates of cancers and epilepsy. In behavioral health, Filipino women ranked highest on all types of drug use and cigarette smoking, compared with their counterparts. In mental health, Filipino American women reported significantly better mental health self-rating compared with their Chinese and Vietnamese American counterparts. Asian American women from each ethnic group sought health services at distinct rates. However, the help-seeking patterns of health services are similar.
Asian American women encountered various physical, behavioral, and mental health problems, yet they had low rates of seeking healthcare services. Hence, it is critical to further examine factors associated with the underestimation of physical and mental health problems and underuse of health services by Asian American women.
PMCID: PMC3253389  PMID: 21777144
5.  Assessing the Mental Health Needs and Barriers to Care Among a Diverse Sample of Asian American Older Adults 
Asian Americans represent a mix of cultures and immigration experiences, which may put them differentially at risk for mental health problems. Yet, little is known about the mental health needs of older adults from various Asian subgroups compared to non-Hispanic whites.
To compare the prevalence rates of mental distress of Chinese, Filipino, South Asian, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese older adults (aged 55 and older) to that of non-Hispanic whites; and to examine subgroup differences in utilization of mental health services.
A cross-sectional analysis of a population-based sample of California adults responding to the 2007 California Health Interview Survey. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to examine subgroup differences in mental health status and use of mental health services among the six different Asian subgroups and non-Hispanic whites, adjusting for respondents’ demographic and health characteristics, socioeconomic status, and English-language proficiency.
A total of 20,712 respondents were included. Filipino [aOR=2.25; 95% CI=1.14-4.47] and Korean Americans [aOR=2.10; 95% CI=1.06-4.17] were more likely to report symptoms indicative of mental distress compared to non-Hispanic whites, yet were less likely to have seen a primary care provider [Filipino: aOR=0.41; 95% CI=0.18-0.90; Korean: aOR=0.24; 95% CI = 0.08-0.69] or have taken a prescription medication [Filipino: aOR=0.20; 95% CI=0.10-0.40; Korean: aOR=0.15; 95% CI=0.05-0.40], even after adjusting for indicators of respondents’ demographic and health characteristics, socioeconomic status, and English-language proficiency. In contrast, Japanese Americans were less likely to report symptoms indicative of mental distress [aOR=0.43; 95% CI=0.21-0.90], and were less likely to make use of mental health services compared to non-Hispanic whites.
The findings from this study not only highlight the unmet mental health needs among older Asian Americans, but also illustrate significant variations among the various Asian subgroups. Clinicians who work closely with these patients should regularly screen and assess older Asian adults for symptoms related to their mental health needs.
PMCID: PMC3101977  PMID: 21321793
Asian Americans; mental health; aging; distress; California Health Interview Survey (CHIS)
6.  A study of a culturally focused psychiatric consultation service for Asian American and Latino American primary care patients with depression 
BMC Psychiatry  2011;11:166.
Ethnic minorities with depression are more likely to seek mental health care through primary care providers (PCPs) than mental health specialists. However, both provider and patient-specific challenges exist. PCP-specific challenges include unfamiliarity with depressive symptom profiles in diverse patient populations, limited time to address mental health, and limited referral options for mental health care. Patient-specific challenges include stigma around mental health issues and reluctance to seek mental health treatment. To address these issues, we implemented a multi-component intervention for Asian American and Latino American primary care patients with depression at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).
We propose a randomized controlled trial to evaluate a culturally appropriate intervention to improve the diagnosis and treatment of depression in our target population. Our goals are to facilitate a) primary care providers' ability to provide appropriate, culturally informed care of depression, and b) patients' knowledge of and resources for receiving treatment for depression. Our two-year long intervention targets Asian American and Latino American adult (18 years of age or older) primary care patients at MGH screening positive for symptoms of depression. All eligible patients in the intervention arm of the study who screen positive will be offered a culturally focused psychiatric (CFP) consultation. Patients will meet with a study clinician and receive toolkits that include psychoeducational booklets, worksheets and community resources. Within two weeks of the initial consultation, patients will attend a follow-up visit with the CFP clinicians. Primary outcomes will determine the feasibility and cost associated with implementation of the service, and evaluate patient and provider satisfaction with the CFP service. Exploratory aims will describe the study population at screening, recruitment, and enrollment and identify which variables influenced patient participation in the program.
The study involves an innovative yet practical intervention that builds on existing resources and strives to improve quality of care for depression for minorities. Additionally, it complements the current movement in psychiatry to enhance the treatment of depression in primary care settings. If found beneficial, the intervention will serve as a model for care of Asian American and Latino American patients.
Trial Registration NCT01239407
PMCID: PMC3209439  PMID: 21995514
7.  Lifetime Prevalence of Mental Disorders in Lebanon: First Onset, Treatment, and Exposure to War  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(4):e61.
There are no published data on national lifetime prevalence and treatment of mental disorders in the Arab region. Furthermore, the effect of war on first onset of disorders has not been addressed previously on a national level, especially in the Arab region. Thus, the current study aims at investigating the lifetime prevalence, treatment, age of onset of mental disorders, and their relationship to war in Lebanon.
Methods and Findings
The Lebanese Evaluation of the Burden of Ailments and Needs Of the Nation study was carried out on a nationally representative sample of the Lebanese population (n = 2,857 adults). Respondents were interviewed using the fully structured WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview 3.0. Lifetime prevalence of any Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV) disorder was 25.8%. Anxiety (16.7%) and mood (12.6%) were more common than impulse control (4.4%) and substance (2.2%) disorders. Only a minority of people with any mental disorder ever received professional treatment, with substantial delays (6 to 28 y) between the onset of disorders and onset of treatment. War exposure increased the risk of first onset of anxiety (odds ratio [OR] 5.92, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.5–14.1), mood (OR 3.32, 95% CI 2.0–5.6), and impulse control disorders (OR 12.72, 95% CI 4.5–35.7).
About one-fourth of the sample (25.8%) met criteria for at least one of the DSM-IV disorders at some point in their lives. There is a substantial unmet need for early identification and treatment. Exposure to war events increases the odds of first onset of mental disorders.
In a survey of 2,857 adults in Lebanon, Elie Karam and colleagues found a lifetime prevalence of any DSM-IV psychiatric disorder of 25.8%.
Editors' Summary
Mental illnesses—persistent problems with thinking, with feelings, with behavior, and with coping with life—are very common. In the UK about a quarter, and in the US, almost half, of people have a mental illness at some time during their life. Depression, for example, persistently lowers a person's mood and can make them feel hopeless and unmotivated. Anxiety—constant, unrealistic worries about daily life—can cause sleep problems and physical symptoms such as stomach pains. People with impulse-control disorders, have problems with controlling their temper or their impulses which may sometimes lead to hurting themselves or other people. These and other mental illnesses seriously affect the work, relationships, and quality of life of the ill person and of their family. However, most people with mental illnesses can lead fulfilling and productive lives with the help of appropriate medical and nonmedical therapies.
Why Was This Study Done?
Recent epidemiological surveys (studies that investigate the factors that affect the health of populations) have provided important information about the burden of mental disorders in some industrialized countries. However, little is known about the global prevalence of mental disorders (the proportion of people in a population with each disorder at one time) or about how events such as wars affect mental health. This information is needed so that individual countries can provide effective mental-health services for their populations. To provide this information, the World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative is undertaking large-scale psychiatric epidemiological surveys in more than 29 countries. As part of this Initiative, researchers have examined the prevalence and treatment of mental disorders in Lebanon and have asked whether war in this country has affected the risk of becoming mentally ill.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomly selected a sample of nearly 3,000 adults living in Lebanon and interviewed them using an Arabic version of the World Health Organization's “Composite International Diagnostic Interview” (CIDI 3.0). This interview tool generates diagnoses of mental disorders in the form of “DSM-IV codes,” the American Psychiatric Association's standard codes for specific mental disorders. The researchers also asked the study participants about their experience of war-related traumatic events such as being a civilian in a war zone or being threatened by a weapon. The researchers found that one in four Lebanese had had one or more DSM-IV disorder at some time during their life. Major depression was the single most common disorder. The researchers also calculated that by the age of 75 years, about one-third of the Lebanese would probably have had one or more DSM-IV disorder. Only half of the Lebanese with a mood disorder ever received professional help; treatment rates for other mental disorders were even lower. The average delay in treatment ranged from 6 years for mood disorders to 28 years for anxiety disorders. Finally, exposure to war-related events increased the risk of developing an anxiety, mood, or impulse-control disorder by about 6-fold, 3-fold, and 13-fold, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the prevalence of mental illness in Lebanon is similar to that in the UK and the US, the first time that this information has been available for an Arabic-speaking country. Indeed, the burden of mental illness in Lebanon may actually be higher than these findings suggest, because the taboos associated with mental illness may have stopped some study participants from reporting their problems. The findings also show that in Lebanon exposure to war-related events greatly increases the risk of developing for the first time several mental disorders. Further studies are needed to discover whether this finding is generalizable to other countries. Finally, these findings indicate that many people in Lebanon who develop a mental illness never receive appropriate treatment. There is no shortage of health-care professionals in Lebanon, so the researchers suggest that the best way to improve the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders in this country might be to increase the awareness of these conditions and to reduce the taboos associated with mental illness, both among the general population and among health-care professionals.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Read a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article
IDRAAC has a database that provides access to all published research articles related to mental health in the Arab World
The UK charity Mind provides information on understanding mental illness
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information on understanding, treating, and preventing mental disorders (mainly in English but some information in Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides a list of useful links to information about mental health
Wikipedia has a page on DSM-IV codes (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The World Mental Health Survey Initiative and the Lebanese WHM study are described on the organizations' Web pages
PMCID: PMC2276523  PMID: 18384228
8.  Cultural Differences in Professional Help Seeking: A Comparison of Japan and the U.S. 
Previous research has found cultural differences in the frequency of support seeking. Asians and Asian Americans report seeking support from their close others to deal with their stress less often compared to European Americans. Similarly, other research on professional help seeking has shown that Asians and Asian Americans are less likely than European Americans to seek professional psychological help. Previous studies link this difference to multitude of factors, such as cultural stigma and reliance on informal social networks. The present research examined another explanation for cultural differences in professional help seeking. We predicted that the observed cultural difference in professional help seeking is an extension of culture-specific interpersonal relationship patterns. In the present research, undergraduate students in Japan and the United States completed the Inventory of Attitudes toward Seeking Mental Health Services, which measures professional help seeking propensity, psychological openness to acknowledging psychological problems, and indifference to the stigma of seeking professional help. The results showed that Japanese reported greater reluctance to seek professional help compared to Americans. Moreover, the relationship between culture and professional help seeking attitudes was partially mediated by use of social support seeking among close others. The implications of cultural differences in professional help seeking and the relationship between support seeking and professional help seeking are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3576055  PMID: 23426857
culture; help seeking; professional help; clinical services; social support
9.  Mental health service use from a religious or spiritual advisor among Asian Americans 
Asian journal of psychiatry  2013;6(6):10.1016/j.ajp.2013.03.009.
Asian Americans experience significant underuse of mental health treatment. Religious clergy and spiritual advisors play a critical role in delivering mental health care in the United States. Limited knowledge exists about their use among Asian Americans.
We describe mental health service use from a religious/spiritual advisor among Asian Americans.
We analyzed data from 2095 respondents in the 2002–2003 National Latino and Asian American Study.
Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of mental health service use from a religious/spiritual advisor (5.5% and 1% overall, respectively) was generally higher among U.S.-born Asians and those with a 12-month mental disorder (23.6% and 7.5%, respectively). Religious/spiritual advisors were seen by 35% of treatment-seeking Asian Americans with a lifetime mental disorder. They were seen as commonly as psychiatrists but less commonly than a mental health specialist or general medical provider. Approximately 70% of those seeking treatment had a mental disorder, significant proportions of whom sought treatment in the absence of a psychiatrist, a mental health specialist or even a healthcare provider. A significant majority with 12-month use perceived the care as helpful, felt accepted/understood and satisfied (71–86%). However, only 31% rated the care as excellent, 28% quit completing care, and referral rates for specialty mental health treatment were low, even among those with a mental disorder (9.5%).
Religious/spiritual advisors are a key source of treatment-seeking for Asian Americans with a mental disorder. Quality of care and low referral rates for specialty mental health treatment warrant further attention and need for increased collaboration with the mental health system.
PMCID: PMC3855663  PMID: 24309881
Asian Americans; Religious and spiritual advisor; Mental health service use; Mental disorder; Ethnicity; Nativity
10.  Linguistic and Cultural Barriers to Care 
Primarily because of immigration, Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing and most ethnically diverse minority groups in the United States. However, little is known about their perspectives on health care quality.
To examine factors contributing to quality of care from the perspective of Chinese- and Vietnamese-American patients with limited English language skills.
Qualitative study using focus groups and content analysis to determine domains of quality of care.
Four community health centers in Massachusetts.
A total of 122 Chinese- and Vietnamese-American patients were interviewed in focus groups by bilingual interviewers using a standardized, translated moderator guide.
Domains of quality of care mentioned by patients in verbatim transcripts.
In addition to dimensions of health care quality commonly expressed by Caucasian, English-speaking patients in the United States, Chinese- and Vietnamese-American patients with limited English proficiency wanted to discuss the use of non-Western medical practices with their providers, but encountered significant barriers. They viewed providers' knowledge, inquiry, and nonjudgmental acceptance of traditional Asian medical beliefs and practices as part of quality care. Patients also considered the quality of interpreter services to be very important. They preferred using professional interpreters rather than family members, and preferred gender-concordant translators. Furthermore, they expressed the need for help in navigating health care systems and obtaining support services.
Cultural and linguistically appropriate health care services may lead to improved health care quality for Asian-American patients who have limited English language skills. Important aspects of quality include providers' respect for traditional health beliefs and practices, access to professional interpreters, and assistance in obtaining social services.
PMCID: PMC1494812  PMID: 12534763
Asian Americans; Chinese; Vietnamese; immigrants; quality; health care access; interpreters; language barriers; indigent care; community health centers
11.  Family Culture in Mental Health Help-Seeking and Utilization in a Nationally Representative Sample of Latinos in the United States: The NLAAS 
Considering the central role of familismo in Latino culture, it is important to assess the extent to which familismo affects mental health help-seeking. This study examined the role of behavioral familismo, the level of perceived family support, in the use of mental health services of Latinos in the United States. Data come from the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS), a representative household survey examining the prevalence of mental disorders and services utilization among Latinos and Asian Americans. Analyses were limited to Latino adults with a clinical need for mental health services, indexed by meeting DSM–IV diagnostic criteria for any mood, anxiety, or substance use disorder during the past 12 months (N = 527). One-third of Latinos with a clinical need used any type of service in the past year, including specialty mental health, general medical, and informal or religious services. High behavioral familismo was significantly associated with increased odds of using informal or religious services, but not specialty or medical services. Self-perceived need and social perceptions of need for care within close networks (i.e., told by family/friends to seek professional help) also were significant predictors of service use. These results carry important implications toward expansions of the mental health workforce in the informal and religious services settings.
PMCID: PMC4194077  PMID: 24999521
Latinos; Familismo; Mental Health Services; Disparities; Perceived Need
12.  Cultural barriers to health care for southeast Asian refugees. 
Public Health Reports  1992;107(5):544-548.
Many Southeast Asians now living in the United States experience severe health problems, attributable to physical trauma and inadequate health care in Asia, and low socioeconomic status in this country. Evidence indicates that despite their health problems, Southeast Asian refugees underuse the American health care system. Cultural reasons for this underuse are examined. Southeast Asian cultural attitudes toward suffering, such as beliefs that suffering is inevitable or that one's life span is predetermined, can cause Southeast Asians not to seek health care. Cultural beliefs about the sources of illness and correspondingly appropriate forms of treatment can be a barrier to Western health care. Many lack familiarity with Western diagnostic techniques and treatments and thus are apprehensive. Health care providers' ignorance of Southeast Asian cultures can interfere with communication with patients, resulting in culturally irrelevant services or misinterpretation of side effects of Southeast Asian folk medicines. Southeast Asians' lack of familiarity with American culture can make health care services geographically and economically inaccessible and can cause Southeast Asians to be ignorant of available services or how to access them. An understanding of Southeast Asian cultures and additional outreach efforts by Western medical practitioners and health care providers are needed to improve the use of health care services by Southeast Asian refugees in this country.
PMCID: PMC1403696  PMID: 1410235
13.  E-Mental Health Care Among Young Adults and Help-Seeking Behaviors: A Transversal Study in a Community Sample 
The Internet is widely used by young people and could serve to improve insufficient access to mental health care. Previous information on this topic comes from selected samples (students or self-selected individuals) and is incomplete.
In a community sample of young adults, we aimed to describe frequency of e-mental health care study-associated factors and to determine if e-mental health care was associated with the use of conventional services for mental health care.
Using data from the 2011 wave of the TEMPO cohort study of French young adults (N=1214, aged 18-37 years), we examined e-mental health care and associated factors following Andersen’s behavioral model: predisposing factors (age, sex, educational attainment, professional activity, living with a partner, children, childhood negative events, chronic somatic disease, parental history of depression), enabling factors (social support, financial difficulties, parents’ income), and needs-related factors (lifetime major depression or anxiety disorders, suicidal ideation, ADHD, cannabis use). We compared traditional service use (seeking help from a general practitioner, a psychiatrist, a psychologist; antidepressant or anxiolytics/hypnotics use) between participants who used e-mental health care versus those who did not.
Overall, 8.65% (105/1214) of participants reported seeking e-mental health care in case of psychological difficulties in the preceding 12 months and 15.7% (104/664) reported psychological difficulties. Controlling for all covariates, the likelihood of e-mental health care was positively associated with 2 needs-related factors, lifetime major depression or anxiety disorder (OR 2.36, 95% CI 1.36-4.09) and lifetime suicidal ideation (OR 1.91, 95% CI 1.40-2.60), and negatively associated with a predisposing factor: childhood life events (OR 0.60, 95% CI 0.38-0.93). E-mental health care did not hinder traditional care, but was associated with face-to-face psychotherapy (66.2%, 51/77 vs 52.4%, 186/355, P=.03).
E-mental health care represents an important form of help-seeking behavior for young adults. Professionals and policy makers should take note of this and aim to improve the quality of online information on mental health care and to use this fact in clinical care.
PMCID: PMC4468604  PMID: 25979680
Internet; mental health services; young adult; epidemiology; health care disparities
14.  Binge Drinking and Alcohol-Related Problems among U.S-Born Asian Americans 
Binge drinking (five drinks or more in a 2-hour sitting for men, or four or more drinks in a 2-hour sitting for women) and alcohol-related problems are a growing problem among Asian American young adults. The current study examines the socio-cultural (i.e., generational status and ethnic identity) determinants of binge drinking and alcohol-related problems across U.S.-born, young adult, Asian American ethnic groups. Data were collected from 1,575 Asian American undergraduates from a public university in Southern California. Chinese Americans consisted of the largest Asian ethnicity in the study followed by Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean, South Asian, Japanese, Multi-Asian, and “other Asian American”. Participants completed a web-based assessment of binge drinking, alcohol-related problems, ethnic identity, descriptive norms (i.e., perceived peer drinking norms) and demographic information. An analysis of variance was used to determine potential gender and ethnic differences in binge drinking and alcohol-related problems. Negative binomial regression was selected to examine the relationship between the predictors and outcomes in our model. There were no gender differences between Asian American men and women in regards to binge drinking, however men reported more alcohol-related problems. Japanese Americans reported the highest number of binge drinking episodes and alcohol-related problems, followed by Filipino, and Multi-Asian Americans (e.g., Chinese and Korean). Living off-campus, higher scores in descriptive norms, Greek status, and belonging to the ethnic groups Japanese, Filipino, Multi-Asian, Korean, and South Asian increased the risk of engaging in binge drinking. Quantity of alcohol consumed, Greek status, gender, Filipino, South Asian “Other” Asian, and lower ethnic identity scores were related to alcohol-related problems. Using one of the largest samples collected to date on socio-cultural determinants and drinking among U.S.-born Asian American young adults, the findings highlight the significant variability in drinking patterns between Asian American ethnic groups.
PMCID: PMC3489163  PMID: 22686146
Asian Americans; U.S-Born; binge drinking; alcohol-related problems
15.  Facilitating the Recruitment of Minority Ethnic People into Research: Qualitative Case Study of South Asians and Asthma 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(10):e1000148.
Aziz Sheikh and colleagues report on a qualitative study in the US and the UK to investigate ways to bolster recruitment of South Asians into asthma studies, including making inclusion of diverse populations mandatory.
There is international interest in enhancing recruitment of minority ethnic people into research, particularly in disease areas with substantial ethnic inequalities. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis found that UK South Asians are at three times increased risk of hospitalisation for asthma when compared to white Europeans. US asthma trials are far more likely to report enrolling minority ethnic people into studies than those conducted in Europe. We investigated approaches to bolster recruitment of South Asians into UK asthma studies through qualitative research with US and UK researchers, and UK community leaders.
Methods and Findings
Interviews were conducted with 36 researchers (19 UK and 17 US) from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and ten community leaders from a range of ethnic, religious, and linguistic backgrounds, followed by self-completion questionnaires. Interviews were digitally recorded, translated where necessary, and transcribed. The Framework approach was used for analysis. Barriers to ethnic minority participation revolved around five key themes: (i) researchers' own attitudes, which ranged from empathy to antipathy to (in a minority of cases) misgivings about the scientific importance of the question under study; (ii) stereotypes and prejudices about the difficulties in engaging with minority ethnic populations; (iii) the logistical challenges posed by language, cultural differences, and research costs set against the need to demonstrate value for money; (iv) the unique contexts of the two countries; and (v) poorly developed understanding amongst some minority ethnic leaders of what research entails and aims to achieve. US researchers were considerably more positive than their UK counterparts about the importance and logistics of including ethnic minorities, which appeared to a large extent to reflect the longer-term impact of the National Institutes of Health's requirement to include minority ethnic people.
Most researchers and community leaders view the broadening of participation in research as important and are reasonably optimistic about the feasibility of recruiting South Asians into asthma studies provided that the barriers can be overcome. Suggested strategies for improving recruitment in the UK included a considerably improved support structure to provide academics with essential contextual information (e.g., languages of particular importance and contact with local gatekeepers), and the need to ensure that care is taken to engage with the minority ethnic communities in ways that are both culturally appropriate and sustainable; ensuring reciprocal benefits was seen as one key way of avoiding gatekeeper fatigue. Although voluntary measures to encourage researchers may have some impact, greater impact might be achieved if UK funding bodies followed the lead of the US National Institutes of Health requiring recruitment of ethnic minorities. Such a move is, however, likely in the short- to medium-term, to prove unpopular with many UK academics because of the added “hassle” factor in engaging with more diverse populations than many have hitherto been accustomed to.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
In an ideal world, everyone would have the same access to health care and the same health outcomes (responses to health interventions). However, health inequalities—gaps in health care and in health between different parts of the population—exist in many countries. In particular, people belonging to ethnic minorities in the UK, the US, and elsewhere have poorer health outcomes for several conditions than people belonging to the ethnic majority (ethnicity is defined by social characteristics such as cultural tradition or national origin). For example, in the UK, people whose ancestors came from the Indian subcontinent (also known as South Asians and comprising in the main of people of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi origin) are three times as likely to be admitted to hospital for asthma as white Europeans. The reasons underpinning ethnic health inequalities are complex. Some inequalities may reflect intrinsic differences between groups of people—some ethnic minorities may inherit genes that alter their susceptibility to a specific disease. Other ethnic health inequalities may arise because of differences in socioeconomic status or because different cultural traditions affect the uptake of health care services.
Why Was This Study Done?
Minority ethnic groups are often under-represented in health research, which could limit the generalizability of research findings. That is, an asthma treatment that works well in a trial where all the participants are white Europeans might not be suitable for South Asians. Clinicians might nevertheless use the treatment in all their patients irrespective of their ethnicity and thus inadvertently increase ethnic health inequality. So, how can ethnic minorities be encouraged to enroll into research studies? In this qualitative study, the investigators try to answer this question by talking to US and UK asthma researchers and UK community leaders about how they feel about enrolling ethnic minorities into research studies. The investigators chose to compare the feelings of US and UK asthma researchers because minority ethnic people are more likely to enroll into US asthma studies than into UK studies, possibly because the US National Institute of Health's (NIH) Revitalization Act 1993 mandates that all NIH-funded clinical research must include people from ethnic minority groups; there is no similar mandatory policy in the UK.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The investigators interviewed 16 UK and 17 US asthma researchers and three UK social researchers with experience of working with ethnic minorities. They also interviewed ten community leaders from diverse ethnic, religious and linguistic backgrounds. They then analyzed the interviews using the “Framework” approach, an analytical method in which qualitative data are classified and organized according to key themes and then interpreted. By comparing the data from the UK and US researchers, the investigators identified several barriers to ethnic minority participation in health research including: the attitudes of researchers towards the scientific importance of recruiting ethnic minority people into health research studies; prejudices about the difficulties of including ethnic minorities in health research; and the logistical challenges posed by language and cultural differences. In general, the US researchers were more positive than their UK counterparts about the importance and logistics of including ethnic minorities in health research. Finally, the investigators found that some community leaders had a poor understanding of what research entails and about its aims.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal a large gap between US and UK researchers in terms of policy, attitudes, practices, and experiences in relation to including ethnic minorities in asthma research. However, they also suggest that most UK researchers and community leaders believe that it is both important and feasible to increase the participation of South Asians in asthma studies. Although some of these findings may have been affected by the study participants sometimes feeling obliged to give “politically correct” answers, these findings are likely to be generalizable to other diseases and to other parts of Europe. Given their findings, the researchers warn that a voluntary code of practice that encourages the recruitment of ethnic minority people into health research studies is unlikely to be successful. Instead, they suggest, the best way to increase the representation of ethnic minority people in health research in the UK might be to follow the US lead and introduce a policy that requires their inclusion in such research.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Families USA, a US nonprofit organization that campaigns for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans, has information about many aspects of minority health in the US, including an interactive game about minority health issues
The US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has a section on minority health
The UK Department of Health provides information on health inequalities and a recent report on the experiences of patients in Black and minority ethnic groups
The UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology also has a short article on ethnicity and health
Information on the NIH Revitalization Act 1993 is available
NHS Evidences Ethnicity and Health has a variety of policy, clinical, and research resources on ethnicity and health
PMCID: PMC2752116  PMID: 19823568
16.  Psychosocial Adjustment and Substance Use of Cambodian and Vietnamese Immigrant Youth 
Southeast Asians living in the United States are a unique Asian immigrant population. They are considered one of the “newer” Asian immigrant groups, tend to be less affluent compared with their East and South Asian counterparts, and are steadily growing in number (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000). Unfortunately, few studies exist specifically about Southeast Asian immigrants. The lack of studies, coupled with the community's growing mental health issues, suggests the need for increased research on this population. This study contributes to the literature by examining the extent to which identification with Vietnamese or Cambodian culture, peer relationships, and coping behaviors affect substance use among Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrant youth. A sample of 102 participants, age 12–18 years, completed self-report measures regarding these variables. Overall, results indicate that identification with one's culture of origin and coping behaviors moderate the relationship between deviant peer association and substance use. Results are discussed within a contextual model of problem behavior among Southeast Asian youth.
PMCID: PMC3002173  PMID: 21170155
17.  Cultural aspects of primary healthcare in india: A case- based analysis 
Delivering quality primary care to large populations is always challenging, and that is certainly the case in India. While the sheer magnitude of patients can create difficulties, not all challenges are about logistics. Sometimes patient health-seeking behaviour leads to delays in obtaining medical help for reasons that have more to do with culture, social practice and religious belief. When primary care is accessed via busy state-run outpatient departments there is often little time for the physician to investigate causes behind a patient's condition, and these factors can adversely affect patient outcomes. We consider the case of a woman with somatic symptoms seemingly triggered by psychological stresses associated with social norms and familial cultural expectations. These expectations conflict with her personal and professional aspirations, and although she eventually receives psychiatric help and her problems are addressed, initially, psycho-social factors underlying her condition posed a hurdle in terms of accessing appropriate medical care. While for many people culture, belief and social norms exert a stabilising, positive influence, in situations where someone's personal expectations differ significantly from accepted social norms, individual autonomy can be directly challenged, and in which case, something has to give. The result of such challenges can negatively impact on health and well-being, and for patients with immature defence mechanisms for dealing with inner conflict, such an experience can be damaging and ensuing somatic disturbances are often difficult to treat. Patients with culture-bound symptoms are not uncommon within primary care in India or in other Asian countries and communities. We argue that such cases need to be properly understood if satisfactory patient outcomes are to be achieved. While some causes are structural, having to do with how healthcare is accessed and delivered, others are about cultural values, social practices and beliefs. We note how some young adult women are adversely affected and discuss some of the ethical issues that arise.
PMCID: PMC3130647  PMID: 21679415
18.  English language proficiency and lifetime mental health service utilization in a national representative sample of Asian Americans in the USA 
US Department of Health and Human Services reported that the lack of English language proficiency and the shortage of providers who possessed appropriate language skills were identified as major barriers to mental health service use for approximately half of the population of Asians and Pacific Islanders. The aim of this study was to examine the predictors of lifetime mental health service use in relation to English language proficiency among Asian Americans.
Data from 2095 Asian participants from the National Latino and Asian American Study were analyzed using logistic regression.
Respondents with better English language proficiency and with a mental health diagnosis were more inclined to use mental health services. Participants who were born in the USA, who were widowed, separated or divorced, who sought comfort from religion, who reported worse physical and mental health self-ratings were more likely to use mental health services. The lack of health insurance coverage was not a significant predictor.
The public health implications for behavioral health include the need to educate health-care providers working with Asian Americans regarding the benefits derived from seeking services and making interpreter services available in a culturally sensitive environment.
PMCID: PMC2924787  PMID: 20202979
ethnicity; health services; mental health
19.  Reducing liver cancer disparities: a community-based hepatitis-B prevention program for Asian-American communities. 
OBJECTIVES: Several Asian-American groups are at a higher risk of dying of liver diseases attributable to hepatitis-B infection. This culturally diverse community should be well informed of and protected against liver diseases. The present study assesses the knowledge of hepatitis B before and after a hepatitis-B educational program and determines the infection status of an Asian community. METHODS: Nine Asian communities of Montgomery County, MD, enrolled in the hepatitis-B prevention program between 2005 and 2006. They attended culturally tailored lectures on prevention, completed self-administered pre- and posttests, and received blood screening for the disease. RESULTS: More than 800 Asian Americans participated in the study. Knowledge of prevention was improved after educational delivery. The average infection rate was 4.5%, with Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean groups having higher infection rates. The age group of 36-45 had the highest percentage of carriers (9.1%). CONCLUSION: Many Asian groups, particularly those of a southeast Asian decent, were subject to a higher probability of hepatitis-B infection. At an increased risk are first-generation Asian immigrants, groups with low immunization rates and those aged 36-45. The findings provide potential directions for focusing preventive interventions on at-risk Asian communities to reduce liver cancer disparities.
PMCID: PMC2574302  PMID: 17722668
20.  Use of psychotropics among looked after children: an audit in the Borough of Lambeth 
Key messages
Looked after children and young people (LAC) are a very mobile population, and risk being lost within networks of professionals. Historically, partly due to this mobility, partly to the difficulties in accessing psychological therapies, some LACs were started on psychotropic medication as first-line treatment.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellent (NICE) recommends that children and adolescents should receive specific psychological therapies as first-line treatment in most mental health disorders, before medication is prescribed. This should apply to LAC as well.
From our audit, there is evidence that there is a change in practice. Good communication between primary care and the Children Looked After Mental Health Service (CLAMHS) has been key to ensuring that Lambeth LAC's care is in accordance with the NICE recommendations.
Why this matters to me
Looked after children (LAC) are the most vulnerable children in our society, first because of the experiences that have led them into care, and second because many of them cannot be settled in a stable placement, therefore having to change schools and meet new friends and a new network of professionals. Not surprisingly, they are more prone to mental health problems. As child and adolescent psychiatrists, we witness the fact that sometimes the initial care disruption (resulting from being removed from parents) is replicated in the care system, with multiple placement breakdowns which also result in a change in health professionals. This also means that LAC become disadvantaged in accessing the appropriate services, although there have been recent initiatives like the London Passport1 to help with this. Those that do not settle in a given placement tend to move geographically quite frequently and providing continuity of care has posed difficulties for professionals. In the past, some of them may have been prescribed medication for certain mental health problems. Following recent research and with NICE guidelines aimed at young people, the need to try psychological therapies as first-line treatment in many mental health disorders is widely accepted. It is a challenge to provide this for a group of children and young people who move so frequently. It is hoped that these therapies will have an impact on their becoming settled in a given placement that eventually will be transformed into their home.
Background Looked after children and young people (LAC) have higher incidence of mental health problems than non-looked after children. Many mental health difficulties are missed in this group, in particular the effects of trauma and loss and the resulting depression. LAC often move between placements, which further disrupts their care and therapeutic interventions. NICE recommends that in most mental health disorders, children and adolescents should receive specific psychological therapies as first-line treatment, before medication. This standard should apply to LAC.
Setting The audit was conducted in the Lambeth CLAMHS, a specialist mental health team working with LAC.
Question To ascertain if Lambeth LAC (living in the borough) are receiving psychotropic medication without CLAMHS input and as their only treatment. (All LAC who are on psychotropic medication should have been offered psychological treatments first.)
Methods A questionnaire was sent out to Lambeth general practice (GP) surgeries to find out what medications children were prescribed, if any. When children were prescribed psychotropic medication checks were made to ascertain whether they were receiving input from mental health services.
Results LAC were seen in 67 different GP surgeries across Lambeth. Responses from 63 surgeries relating to 145 children (87.34% of the total number) were received.
Conclusions There were no LAC in Lambeth who were prescribed psychotropic medication without a CAMHS service being involved. All the patients that were on psychotropic medication were known by CLAMHS or another child and adolescent mental health service within the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. This is in accordance with NICE recommendations.
PMCID: PMC3960690  PMID: 25949619
child psychiatry; child welfare; practice guidelines as topic; primary health care; psychotropic drugs
21.  Early Emergence of Ethnic Differences in Type 2 Diabetes Precursors in the UK: The Child Heart and Health Study in England (CHASE Study) 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(4):e1000263.
Peter Whincup and colleagues carry out a cross-sectional study examining ethnic differences in precursors of of type 2 diabetes among children aged 9–10 living in three UK cities.
Adults of South Asian origin living in the United Kingdom have high risks of type 2 diabetes and central obesity; raised circulating insulin, triglyceride, and C-reactive protein concentrations; and low HDL-cholesterol when compared with white Europeans. Adults of African-Caribbean origin living in the UK have smaller increases in type 2 diabetes risk, raised circulating insulin and HDL-cholesterol, and low triglyceride and C-reactive protein concentrations. We examined whether corresponding ethnic differences were apparent in childhood.
Methods and Findings
We performed a cross-sectional survey of 4,796 children aged 9–10 y in three UK cities who had anthropometric measurements (68% response) and provided blood samples (58% response); ethnicity was based on parental definition. In age-adjusted comparisons with white Europeans (n = 1,153), South Asian children (n = 1,306) had higher glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) (% difference: 2.1, 95% CI 1.6 to 2.7), fasting insulin (% difference 30.0, 95% CI 23.4 to 36.9), triglyceride (% difference 12.9, 95% CI 9.4 to 16.5), and C-reactive protein (% difference 43.3, 95% CI 28.6 to 59.7), and lower HDL-cholesterol (% difference −2.9, 95% CI −4.5 to −1.3). Higher adiposity levels among South Asians (based on skinfolds and bioimpedance) did not account for these patterns. Black African-Caribbean children (n = 1,215) had higher levels of HbA1c, insulin, and C-reactive protein than white Europeans, though the ethnic differences were not as marked as in South Asians. Black African-Caribbean children had higher HDL-cholesterol and lower triglyceride levels than white Europeans; adiposity markers were not increased.
Ethnic differences in type 2 diabetes precursors, mostly following adult patterns, are apparent in UK children in the first decade. Some key determinants operate before adult life and may provide scope for early prevention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Worldwide, nearly 250 million people have diabetes, and the number of people affected by this chronic disease is increasing rapidly. Diabetes is characterized by dangerous amounts of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Blood sugar levels are normally controlled by insulin, a hormone that the pancreas releases when blood sugar levels rise after eating (digestion of food produces glucose). In people with type 2 diabetes (the most common type of diabetes), blood sugar control fails because the fat and muscle cells that usually respond to insulin by removing sugar from the blood become less responsive to insulin (insulin resistant). Type 2 diabetes can be controlled with diet and exercise, and with drugs that help the pancreas make more insulin or that make cells more sensitive to insulin. Long-term complications of diabetes include kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, and an increased risk of developing cardiovascular problems, including heart disease and stroke.
Why Was This Study Done?
South Asians and African-Caribbeans living in Western countries tend to have higher rates of type 2 diabetes than host populations. South Asian adults living in the UK, for example, have a 3-fold higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than white Europeans. They also have higher fasting blood levels of glucose, insulin and triglycerides (a type of fat), higher blood levels of “glycated hemoglobin” (HbA1c; an indicator of average of blood-sugar levels over time), more body fat (increased adiposity), raised levels of a molecule called C-reactive protein, and lower levels of HDL-cholesterol (another type of fat) than white Europeans. Most of these “diabetes precursors” (risk factors) are also seen in black African-Caribbean adults living in the UK except that individuals in this ethnic group often have raised HDL-cholesterol levels and low triglyceride levels. Ethnic differences in type 2 diabetes precursors are also present in adolescents, but the extent to which they are present in childhood remains unclear. Knowing this information could have implications for diabetes prevention. In this population-based study, therefore, the researchers investigate patterns of diabetes precursors in 9- to 10-year-old UK children of white European, South Asian, and black African-Caribbean origin.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled nearly 5,000 children (including 1,153 white European, 1,306 South Asian and 1,215 black African-Caribbean children) from primary schools with high prevalences of ethnic minority pupils in London, Birmingham, and Leicester in the Child Heart and Health study in England (CHASE). They measured and weighed more than two-thirds of the enrolled children and determined their adiposity. They also took blood samples for measurement of diabetes precursors from nearly two-thirds of the children. The recorded ethnicity of each child was based on parental definition. The researchers' analysis of these data showed that, compared with white Europeans, South Asian children had higher levels of HbA1c, insulin, triglycerides, and C-reactive protein but lower HDL-cholesterol levels. In addition, they had higher adiposity levels than the white European children, but this did not account for the observed differences in the other diabetes precursors. Black African-Caribbean children also had higher levels of HbA1c, insulin, and C-reactive protein than white European children, although the differences were smaller than those between South Asians and white Europeans. Similar to black African-Caribbean adults, however, children of this ethnic origin had higher HDL-cholesterol and lower triglyceride levels than white Europeans.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that ethnic differences in diabetes precursors are already present in apparently healthy children before they are 10 years old. Furthermore, most of the ethnic differences in diabetes precursors seen among the children follow the pattern seen in adults. Although these findings need confirming in more children, they suggest that the ethnic differences in type 2 diabetes susceptibility first described in immigrants to the UK are persisting in UK-born South Asian and black African-Caribbean children. Most importantly, these findings suggest that some of the factors thought to be responsible for ethnic differences in type 2 diabetes—for example, varying levels of physical activity and dietary differences—are operating well before adult life. Interventions that target these factors early could, therefore, offer good opportunities for diabetes prevention in high-risk ethnic groups, provided such interventions are carefully tailored to the needs of these groups.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The International Diabetes Federation provides information about all aspects of diabetes (in English, French and Spanish)
The US National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse provides detailed information about diabetes for patients, health-care professionals and the general public, including information on diabetes in specific US populations (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service also provides information for patients and carers about type 2 diabetes (in several languages)
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources and advice about diabetes (in English and Spanish)
The US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has a fact sheet on diabetes disparities among racial and ethnic minorities
PMCID: PMC2857652  PMID: 20421924
22.  Perspectives of pupils, parents, and teachers on mental health problems among Vietnamese secondary school pupils 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:1046.
Secondary school can be a stressful period for adolescents, having to cope with many life changes. Very little research has been conducted on the mental health status of secondary school pupils in South East Asian countries, such as Vietnam.
The study aimed to explore perceptions of mental health status, risk factors for mental health problems and strategies to improve mental health among Vietnamese secondary school students.
A qualitative design was used to address the main study question including: six in-depth interviews conducted with professionals (with two researchers, two psychiatrists, and two secondary school teachers) to learn about their experience of mental health problems among secondary school pupils; 13 focus group discussions (four with teachers, four with parents, and five with pupils); and 10 individual in-depth interviews with pupils who did not take part in the FGDs, to reflect on the collected data and to deepen the authors’ understanding. All interviews and FGDs were audio-taped, transcribed and analyzed for the identification of emerging issues using qualitative techniques of progressive coding, analytic memoing and ongoing comparison.
Our study confirms the need to pay attention to mental health of pupils in Vietnam. Depression, anxiety, stress, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts were seen as major problems by all stakeholders. Mental health problems were mainly associated with academic pressure, resulting from an overloaded curriculum and pressure from teachers and parents to succeed. The study found that pupils’ mental health demands interventions at many levels, including at the level of government (Ministry of Education and Training), schools, communities, families and pupils themselves.
Vietnamese secondary school pupils feel that their mental health status is poor, because of many risk factors in their learning and living environment. The need now is to investigate further to identify and apply strategies to improve students’ mental health.
PMCID: PMC3870964  PMID: 24192066
Mental health; Depression; Anxiety; Stress; Academic pressure; Secondary school; Pupil; Youth; Vietnam
23.  Psychosocial Interventions for Perinatal Common Mental Disorders Delivered by Providers Who Are Not Mental Health Specialists in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(10):e1001541.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Kelly Clarke and colleagues examine the effect of psychosocial interventions delivered by non–mental health specialists for perinatal common mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Perinatal common mental disorders (PCMDs) are a major cause of disability among women. Psychosocial interventions are one approach to reduce the burden of PCMDs. Working with care providers who are not mental health specialists, in the community or in antenatal health care facilities, can expand access to these interventions in low-resource settings. We assessed effects of such interventions compared to usual perinatal care, as well as effects of interventions based on intervention type, delivery method, and timing.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression. We searched databases including Embase and the Global Health Library (up to 7 July 2013) for randomized and non-randomized trials of psychosocial interventions delivered by non-specialist mental health care providers in community settings and antenatal health care facilities in low- and middle-income countries. We pooled outcomes from ten trials for 18,738 participants. Interventions led to an overall reduction in PCMDs compared to usual care when using continuous data for PCMD symptomatology (effect size [ES] −0.34; 95% CI −0.53, −0.16) and binary categorizations for presence or absence of PCMDs (odds ratio 0.59; 95% CI 0.26, 0.92). We found a significantly larger ES for psychological interventions (three studies; ES −0.46; 95% CI −0.58, −0.33) than for health promotion interventions (seven studies; ES −0.15; 95% CI −0.27, −0.02). Both individual (five studies; ES −0.18; 95% CI −0.34, −0.01) and group (three studies; ES −0.48; 95% CI −0.85, −0.11) interventions were effective compared to usual care, though delivery method was not associated with ES (meta-regression β coefficient −0.11; 95% CI −0.36, 0.14). Combined group and individual interventions (based on two studies) had no benefit compared to usual care, nor did interventions restricted to pregnancy (three studies). Intervention timing was not associated with ES (β 0.16; 95% CI −0.16, 0.49). The small number of trials and heterogeneity of interventions limit our findings.
Psychosocial interventions delivered by non-specialists are beneficial for PCMDs, especially psychological interventions. Research is needed on interventions in low-income countries, treatment versus preventive approaches, and cost-effectiveness.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Perinatal common mental health disorders are among the most common health problems in pregnancy and the postpartum period. In low- and middle-income countries, about 16% of women during pregnancy and about 20% of women in the postpartum period will suffer from a perinatal common mental health disorder. These disorders, including depression and anxiety, are a major cause of disability in women and have been linked to young children under their care being underweight and stunted.
Why Was This Study Done?
While research shows that both pharmacological (e.g., antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications) and non-pharmacological (e.g., psychotherapy, education, or health promotion) interventions are effective for preventing and treating perinatal common mental disorders, most of this research took place in high-income countries. These findings may not be applicable in low-resource settings, where there is limited access to mental health care providers such as psychiatrists and psychologists, and to medications. Thus, non-pharmacological interventions delivered by providers who are not mental health specialists may be important as ways to treat perinatal common mental health disorders in these types of settings. In this study the researchers systematically reviewed research estimating the effectiveness of non-pharmacological interventions for perinatal common mental disorders that were delivered by providers who were not mental health specialists (including health workers, lay persons, and doctors or midwives) in low- and middle-income countries. The researchers also used meta-analysis and meta-regression—statistical methods that are used to combine the results from multiple studies—to estimate the relative effects of these interventions on mental health symptoms.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched multiple databases using key search terms to identify randomized and non-randomized clinical trials. Using specific criteria, the researchers retrieved and assessed 37 full papers, of which 11 met the criteria for their systematic review. Seven of these studies were from upper middle-income countries (China, South Africa, Columbia, Mexico, Argentina, Cuba, and Brazil), and four trials were from the lower middle-income countries of Pakistan and India, but there were no trials from low-income countries. The researchers assessed the quality of the selected studies, and one study was excluded from meta-analysis because of poor quality.
Combining results from the ten remaining studies, the researchers found that compared to usual perinatal care (which in most cases included no mental health care), interventions delivered by a providers who were not mental health specialists were associated with an overall reduction in mental health symptoms and the likelihood of being diagnosed with a mental health disorder. The researchers then performed additional analyses to assess relative effects by intervention type, timing, and delivery mode. They observed that both psychological interventions, such as psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, and health promotion interventions that were less focused on mental health led to significant improvement in mental health symptoms, but psychological interventions were associated with greater effects than health promotion interventions. Interventions delivered both during pregnancy and postnatally were associated with significant benefits when compared to usual care; however, when interventions were delivered during pregnancy only, the benefits were not significantly greater than usual care. When investigating mode of delivery, the researchers observed that both group and individual interventions were associated with improvements in symptoms.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that non-pharmacological interventions delivered by providers who are not mental health specialists could be useful for reducing symptoms of perinatal mental health disorders in middle-income countries. However, these findings should be interpreted with caution given that they are based on a small number of studies with a large amount of variation in the study designs, settings, timing, personnel, duration, and whether the intervention was delivered to a group, individually, or both. Furthermore, when the researchers excluded studies of the lowest quality, the observed benefits of these interventions were smaller, indicating that this analysis may overestimate the true effect of interventions. Nevertheless, the findings do provide support for the use of non-pharmacological interventions, delivered by non-specialists, for perinatal mental health disorders. Further studies should be undertaken in low-income countries.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides information about perinatal mental health disorders
The UK Royal College of Psychiatrists has information for professionals and patients about perinatal mental health disorders
PMCID: PMC3812075  PMID: 24204215
24.  A Transdiagnostic Community-Based Mental Health Treatment for Comorbid Disorders: Development and Outcomes of a Randomized Controlled Trial among Burmese Refugees in Thailand 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(11):e1001757.
In a randomized controlled trial, Paul Bolton and colleagues investigate whether a transdiagnostic community-based intervention is effective for improving mental health symptoms among Burmese refugees in Thailand.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Existing studies of mental health interventions in low-resource settings have employed highly structured interventions delivered by non-professionals that typically do not vary by client. Given high comorbidity among mental health problems and implementation challenges with scaling up multiple structured evidence-based treatments (EBTs), a transdiagnostic treatment could provide an additional option for approaching community-based treatment of mental health problems. Our objective was to test such an approach specifically designed for flexible treatments of varying and comorbid disorders among trauma survivors in a low-resource setting.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a single-blinded, wait-list randomized controlled trial of a newly developed transdiagnostic psychotherapy, Common Elements Treatment Approach (CETA), for low-resource settings, compared with wait-list control (WLC). CETA was delivered by lay workers to Burmese survivors of imprisonment, torture, and related traumas, with flexibility based on client presentation. Eligible participants reported trauma exposure and met severity criteria for depression and/or posttraumatic stress (PTS). Participants were randomly assigned to CETA (n = 182) or WLC (n = 165). Outcomes were assessed by interviewers blinded to participant allocation using locally adapted standard measures of depression and PTS (primary outcomes) and functional impairment, anxiety symptoms, aggression, and alcohol use (secondary outcomes). Primary analysis was intent-to-treat (n = 347), including 73 participants lost to follow-up. CETA participants experienced significantly greater reductions of baseline symptoms across all outcomes with the exception of alcohol use (alcohol use analysis was confined to problem drinkers). The difference in mean change from pre-intervention to post-intervention between intervention and control groups was −0.49 (95% CI: −0.59, −0.40) for depression, −0.43 (95% CI: −0.51, −0.35) for PTS, −0.42 (95% CI: −0.58, −0.27) for functional impairment, −0.48 (95% CI: −0.61, −0.34) for anxiety, −0.24 (95% CI: −0.34, −0.15) for aggression, and −0.03 (95% CI: −0.44, 0.50) for alcohol use. This corresponds to a 77% reduction in mean baseline depression score among CETA participants compared to a 40% reduction among controls, with respective values for the other outcomes of 76% and 41% for anxiety, 75% and 37% for PTS, 67% and 22% for functional impairment, and 71% and 32% for aggression. Effect sizes (Cohen's d) were large for depression (d = 1.16) and PTS (d = 1.19); moderate for impaired function (d = 0.63), anxiety (d = 0.79), and aggression (d = 0.58); and none for alcohol use. There were no adverse events. Limitations of the study include the lack of long-term follow-up, non-blinding of service providers and participants, and no placebo or active comparison intervention.
CETA provided by lay counselors was highly effective across disorders among trauma survivors compared to WLCs. These results support the further development and testing of transdiagnostic approaches as possible treatment options alongside existing EBTs.
Trial registration NCT01459068
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Worldwide, one in four people will experience a mental health disorder at some time during their life. Although many evidence-based treatments (EBTs), most involving some sort of cognitive behavioral therapy (talking therapies that help people manage their mental health problems by changing the way they think and behave), are now available, many people with mental health disorders never receive any treatment for their condition. The situation is particularly bad for people living in low-resource settings, where a delivery model for EBTs based on referral to mental health professionals is problematic given that mental health professionals are scarce. To facilitate widespread access to mental health care among poor and/or rural populations in low-resource settings, EBTs need to be deliverable at the primary or community level by non-professionals. Moreover, because there is a large burden of trauma-related mental health disorders in low-resource settings and because trauma increases the risk of multiple mental health problems, treatment options that address comorbid (coexisting) mental health problems in low-resource settings are badly needed.
Why Was This Study Done?
One possible solution to the problem of delivering EBTs for comorbid mental health disorders in low-resource settings is “transdiagnostic” treatment. Many mental health EBTs for different disorders share common components. Transdiagnostic treatments recognize these facts and apply these common components to a range of disorders rather than creating a different structured treatment for each diagnosis. The Common Elements Treatment Approach (CETA), for example, trains counselors in a range of components that are similar across EBTs and teaches counselors how to choose components, their order, and dose, based on their client's problems. This flexible approach, which was designed for delivery by non-professional providers in low-resource settings, provides counselors with the skills needed to treat depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress—three trauma-related mental health disorders. In this randomized controlled trial, the researchers investigate the use of CETA among Burmese refugees living in Thailand, many of whom are survivors of decades-long harsh military rule in Myanmar. A randomized controlled trial compares the outcomes of individuals chosen to receive different interventions through the play of chance.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers assigned Burmese survivors or witnesses of imprisonment, torture, and related traumas who met symptom criteria for significant depression and/or posttraumatic stress to either the CETA or wait-list control arm of their trial. Lay counselors treated the participants in the CETA arm by delivering CETA components—for example, “psychoeducation” (which teaches clients that their symptoms are normal and experienced by many people) and “cognitive coping” (which helps clients understand that how they think about an event can impact their feelings and behavior)—chosen to reflect the client's priority problems at presentation. Participants in the control arm received regular calls from the trial coordinator to check on their safety but no other intervention. Participants in the CETA arm experienced greater reductions of baseline symptoms of depression, posttraumatic stress, anxiety, and aggression than participants in the control arm. For example, there was a 77% reduction in the average depression score from before the intervention to after the intervention among participants in the CETA arm, but only a 40% reduction in the depression score among participants in the control arm. Importantly, the effect size of CETA (a statistical measure that quantifies the importance of the difference between two groups) was large for depression and posttraumatic stress, the primary outcomes of the trial. That is, compared to no treatment, CETA had a large effect on the symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress experienced by the trial participants.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, among Burmese survivors and witnesses of torture and other trauma living in Thailand, CETA delivered by lay counselors was a highly effective treatment for comorbid mental disorders compared to no treatment (the wait-list control). These findings may not be generalizable to other low-resource settings, they provide no information about long-term outcomes, and they do not identify which aspects of CETA were responsible for symptom improvement or explain the improvements seen among the control participants. Given that the study compared CETA to no treatment rather than a placebo (dummy) or active comparison intervention, it is not possible to conclude that CETA works better that existing treatments. Nevertheless, these findings support the continued development and assessment of transdiagnostic approaches for the treatment of mental health disorders in low-resource settings where treatment access and comorbid mental health disorders are important challenges.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides background information about mental health
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information about a range of mental health disorders and about cognitive behavioral therapy
The UK National Health Service Choices website has information about cognitive behavioral therapy, including some personal stories and links to other related mental health resources on the Choices website
A short introduction to transdiagnosis and CETA written by one of the trial authors is available
Information about this trial is available on the website
The UN Refugee Agency provides information about Burmese (Myanmar) refugees in Thailand
PMCID: PMC4227644  PMID: 25386945
25.  Internet-Based Interventions to Promote Mental Health Help-Seeking in Elite Athletes: An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Trial 
Mental disorders are more common in young adults than at any other life stage. Despite this, young people have low rates of seeking professional help for mental health problems. Young elite athletes have less positive attitudes toward seeking help than nonathletes and thus may be particularly unlikely to seek help. Interventions aimed at increasing help-seeking in young elite athletes are warranted.
To test the feasibility and efficacy of three Internet-based interventions designed to increase mental health help-seeking attitudes, intentions, and behavior in young elite athletes compared with a control condition.
We conducted a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of three brief fully automated Internet-based mental health help-seeking interventions with 59 young elite athletes recruited online in a closed trial in Australia. The interventions consisted of a mental health literacy and destigmatization condition, a feedback condition providing symptom levels, and a minimal content condition comprising a list of help-seeking resources, compared with a control condition (no intervention). We measured help-seeking attitudes, intentions and behavior using self-assessed surveys. Participation was open to elite athletes regardless of their mental health status or risk of mental illness.
Of 120 athletes initially agreeing to participate, 59 (49%) submitted a preintervention or postintervention survey, or both, and were included in the present study. Adherence was satisfactory, with 48 (81%) participants visiting both weeks of assigned intervention material. None of the interventions yielded a significant increase in help-seeking attitudes, intentions, or behavior relative to control. However, at postintervention, there was a trend toward a greater increase in help-seeking behavior from formal sources for the mental health literacy/destigmatization condition compared with control (P = .06). This intervention was also associated with increased depression literacy (P = .003, P = .005) and anxiety literacy (P = .002, P = .001) relative to control at postintervention and 3-month follow-up, respectively, and a reduction in depression stigma relative to control at postintervention (P = .01, P = .12) and anxiety stigma at 3-month follow-up (P = .18, P = .02). The feedback and help-seeking list interventions did not improve depression or anxiety literacy or decrease stigmatizing attitudes to these conditions. However, the study findings should be treated with caution. Due to recruitment challenges, the achieved sample size fell significantly short of the target size and the study was underpowered. Accordingly, the results should be considered as providing preliminary pilot data only.
This is the first RCT of an Internet-based mental health help-seeking intervention for young elite athletes. The results suggest that brief mental health literacy and destigmatization improves knowledge and may decrease stigma but does not increase help-seeking. However, since the trial was underpowered, a larger trial is warranted.
Trial Registration
2009/373 ( ID: NCT00940732), cited at
PMCID: PMC3414855  PMID: 22743352
Mental health; help-seeking; elite athletes

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