The Psychological Toll of Slum Living
Depression is currently the leading cause of disability in the world. With regard to the overall global burden of disease, depression is anticipated to be the second biggest contributor by the year 2020, as measured in disability adjusted life-years (DALYs). Despite the significant impact of mental health on larger society, there are very few studies examining psychiatric illnesses in urban slum communities in developing countries.
Slum dwellers face a variety of acute traumatic events and chronic stressors that may increase their risk for common mental illnesses such as major depression and generalized anxiety.Some of the unique stressors disproportionately faced by slum residents include forced eviction, natural disasters (such as fires or flooding), stress around the inability to access water, and shame around having to toilet publicly. The PUKAR-HSPH-NYU collaboration’s study of mental health hopes to first explore common adversities faced by slum dwellers through a series of in-depth qualitative interviews and focus group discussions.
The second aim of the study is to estimate the burden of disease in Kaula Bandar of anxiety and depression (the two most common psychiatric conditions), using a screening questionnaire to establish disease prevalence. In conjunction with this mental health-screening questionnaire, a second questionnaire that assesses slum adversity will be asked at the same time. These data will eventually allow PUKAR and HSPH researchers to analyze the relationship between adversities/stressors faced in slums and common mental health disorders. This study integrates anthropological and biomedical research methods to try to place mental health in the larger social context of urban slum living.
***This novel project is currently partly being supported by a Fogarty International Clinical Research Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health, U.S.A. (R24 TW007988)***