Addressing the “access” and “scale” challenge: effectiveness of a new WHO guided psychosocial self-help programme

Grant awarded: £456,713

Lead organisation: World Health Organization

Partnering organisations: Peter C Alderman Foundation (PCAF); Makerere University; Johns Hopkins University; Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London; University of New South Wales; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); University of Ottawa; University of Glasgow

Project length: 2015-2017

Study locations: Uganda

Principal Investigator: Dr Mark Van Ommeren

  • Getting ready to facilitate the first course

  • Editing of the SH+ audio in a local studio

  • The South Sudanese version of the SH+ book


The long-term objective is to improve the mental health and functioning of people in humanitarian settings. We aim to contribute to this objective through enhancing the evidence base and availability of psychosocial interventions that are scalable and accessible even when humanitarian access is limited, thus overcoming current barriers to implementation of evidence-based support.

We will evaluate the effectiveness of Self Help Plus; an innovative WHO intervention package that (a) is delivered to affected people via a 5-session guided self-help multimedia course; (b) ensures fidelity to evidence-based techniques via multi-media content; (c) can be implemented in areas where humanitarian access is nominal or non-existent; and (d) is likely readily scalable.

Expected outcomes:

This research will be conducted in a setting with sufficient humanitarian access to successfully implement and monitor the research, providing vital information to inform the future implementation of the intervention package in areas with poor accessibility.

The expected longer-term impact is to provide an evidence-based low-intensity, scalable self-help intervention package that may be culturally adapted and implemented in areas where humanitarian access is otherwise not possible (e.g. South Sudan, Syria, CAR), thereby making progress in addressing access and scalability for interventions in humanitarian settings.

Availability of a first-line low-cost treatment package has the potential to increase the number of individuals reached and reduce the burden on more resource-intensive services where available. Improving access to effective services has the potential to improve people’s psychological and functional outcomes. If proven effective, the manual (with accompanying training materials) will be published by WHO and made available on its website.


Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

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