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Talking out the stigma: Power of language in mental healthcare

January 20 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

How do you speak about something for which there are no words? Dr Sandra Jumbe of Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) has researched youth mental health literacy in Malawi. She soon realised that the problem in Malawi is not only connected to a lack of communication about mental health, but also to a lack of words to properly describe a mental health condition in the official local language – Chichewa. The depth of this problem was especially visible during translation, as Dr Jumbe was struggling to describe depression in Chichewa for a mental health survey needed for her project. This only emphasized the power of language in mental healthcare.


Depression and anxiety are now the most common mental health conditions that afflict young people worldwide, but there are still contexts where mental health issues are downgraded or misunderstood. In sub-Saharan Africa, addressing depression in young people is a healthcare policy need. Mental health literacy is low, stigma is high, and the ability to address needs at the community level is limited. These challenges are significant barriers to accessing mental healthcare for depression, a leading contributor to the global burden of disease.


By engaging people to communicate better, discuss and share their mental health symptoms and experiences, Dr Jumbe aims to break down stereotypes, improve relationships and aid recovery. In her opinion, it is only when people start talking and creating words to help describe and understand mental health that stigma towards conditions like depression and anxiety can be tackled in Malawi.


In this seminar, Dr Sandra Jumbe will elaborate on her experience, observations and challenges of researching and working on youth mental health literacy in Malawi.


About the speaker:

Dr Sandra Jumbe is a Health Services Researcher at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) – an LIDC member university. Sandra is a health psychologist with expertise in health research and behaviour change solutions. This essentially focuses on how biological, social, and psychological factors influence health and illness. She has experience in developing health interventions in both clinical and non-clinical settings. Her current research interests include developing complex interventions for non-communicable diseases and understanding mental health in sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked in the UK National Health Service (NHS) as a Primary Care and Mental Health Researcher, an assistant psychologist and in research governance. She has also independently delivered consultancy work around tailored stress management in organisations. Alongside her research work, Sandra is a general adviser for the NIHR Research Design Service London team based at QMUL. This role involves supporting health professionals and researchers within the North East London area to develop their research ideas into full funding applications to the NIHR and other peer-reviewed funders.


Cristopher Newby, Senior Medical Statistician at the University of Nottingham’s School of Medicine, will chair this event.

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