Thumyat Noe ’23
Adolescent depression and anxiety are prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, due to lack of mental health resources and social stigma surrounding mental illness, youths suffering from depression and anxiety often do not receive treatment. As such, it is important to improve the psychological well-being of these youths. One possible solution is to use theory-driven treatments called wise interventions, which draw on one’s thoughts and feelings regarding themselves, others, or their situations to address problems. The growth-mindset intervention, for example, suggests that one’s traits and characteristics can be improved through effort. Other types of wise interventions include gratitude interventions and value affirmation, wherein participants compile a gratitude list or select and write about their personal virtues, respectively. In the past, wise interventions have been used to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. “Shamiri” is an intervention that includes components of several wise interventions to treat anxiety and depression symptoms in Kenyan youths. In this study, researchers from Harvard University and Stony Brook University investigated the effects of Shamiri intervention on depression and anxiety in symptomatic adolescents.
The study included participants from ages 14 to 17 who researchers randomly assigned to either the Shamiri intervention or the study skills control group. Participants in the Shamiri intervention engaged in value affirmation and gratitude exercises, as well as activities that helped foster a growth mindset. On the other hand, participants in the control group learned about note-taking skills, effective study strategies, time management, and study cycles. Researchers measured changes in depression and anxiety symptoms of all participants at the beginning, middle, and end of the intervention.
Results showed that participants in the Shamiri intervention experienced greater decline in anxiety and depression symptoms than those in the control group. Participants in the Shamiri intervention group also reported that they were willing to recommend the program to their peers. The results suggest that Shamiri intervention is highly effective in improving mental health of the youth in Africa. Therefore, Shamiri intervention could be used to mitigate mental health issues among young people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Overall, as depression and anxiety symptoms become more prevalent, academic institutions should utilize wise interventions to promote well-being.
 T.L. Osborn, et. al., Effect of Shamiri layperson-provided intervention vs study skills control intervention for depression and anxiety symptoms in adolescents in Kenya: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry 8, 829-837 (2021). doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.1129
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