American University of Beirut

Public Health Schools and Programs Collaborate to Study Young Adults in Humanitarian Settings

​​​​A new grant awarded to an international team of researchers, representing accredited public health programs in the United States and Lebanon, will study whether engaging young adults as community mental health workers in humanitarian settings helps not only to support those communities in crisis, but protects the well-being of the young workers as well.   

The collaborative research team is co-led by Rima Afifi, professor of community and behavioral health at the University of Iowa and director of the UI Prevention Research Center for Rural Health, together with Rima Nakkash, associate professor of global and community health at George Mason University. Other research team members include Lilian Ghandour, associate professor of epidemiology and applied biostatistics at American University of Beirut; Catherine Panter-Brick, professor of anthropology, health, and global affairs at Yale University; and Grant Brown, assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Iowa. The research team is also partnering with the non-governmental organization Multi-Aid Projects (MAPs) that will guide field activities.

The project, funded by a three-year, $450,000 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, is focused on Syrian young adults living in Lebanon, a nation that currently hosts about 1.5 million Syrians displaced by war in their home country.

Syrian young adults, aged 18-24 years, will be trained to provide mental health care to at-risk adults in their community. The young adults will implement a program called Problem Management Plus (PM+), a World Health Organization-backed initiative that equips non-professional lay community members with skills and tools to decrease mental distress in communities affected by adversity. In humanitarian settings worldwide, PM+ has been demonstrated to reduce common mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, as well as other problems, such as stress, unemployment, and interpersonal conflict.

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A project infographic and additional information​ about this research is available to view online.

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