Project examines mental health care training in South Africa

The Mediating Intervention to Sensitize Caregivers (MISC) gives caregivers the confidence to improve the socio-emotional and cognitive skills of the children in their care.

Carla Sharp UH Professor of Psychology

Carla Sharp, Professor of Psychology, will begin a clinical trial to fully establish the effectiveness of MISC in community-based organizations with carers caring for orphans and vulnerable children aged 7-11 in South Africa.

It is almost impossible to imagine the long-term psychological problems faced by over 16 million orphans and vulnerable children in global society, difficult to conceptualize their sense of loss and sadness. One thing, however, is universally understood: the provision of sensitive and responsive care leads to positive outcomes, both intellectually and on a social and emotional basis, for all children.

For this reason, Carla Sharp, professor of psychology at the University of Houston, with collaborators from the University of the Free State in South Africa and Michigan State University, is embarking on a study of five years to assess the effectiveness of mediative intervention to raise awareness among caregivers ( MISCELLANEOUS). The intervention gives caregivers the confidence to improve the social-emotional and cognitive skills of the children in their care, according to Sharp.

The work is guaranteed by a A $1.7 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and will take place in South Africa where there are between 2 and 4 million orphans and a mental health worker shortage crisis.

The goal of MISC is to produce mentally healthy, intelligent and socially competent children and is based on a process experts call “serve and return.” But instead of bouncing a tennis ball back and forth, caregivers and children interact in ways that foster learning, communication and closeness. MISC is based on the idea of ​​understanding that there are interactions between adults and children that create learning moments that give meaning to their experience. The program also reminds caregivers that not all children develop at the same rate or at the same time. And it doesn’t matter.

“MISC incorporates aspects of socio-emotional health and cognitive development while being culturally sensitive,” said Sharp, whose previous work has shown MISC training to significantly reduce mental health issues in orphaned and vulnerable children who speak Sesotho, one of the 11 official languages. in South Africa.

Building on this work, Sharp will test the effectiveness in the real world, beginning a clinical trial to fully establish the effectiveness of MISC in Community Based Organizations (CBOs) with caregivers caring for orphans and children. vulnerable ages 7-11, an essential developmental milestone for building mental health resilience in the face of onset psychiatric problems in adolescence.

Sharp’s team will work with 24 community organizations to recruit 360 children and 72 carers in the Mangaung and Xhariep districts of South Africa’s Free State Province.

“We hypothesize that MISC-CBO will be associated with comparative increases in the quality of care provided by caregivers and reductions in mental health problems in children,” said Sharp. “Our work will also test the cost-effectiveness and readiness of implementing MISC-CBO during the critical developmental window of at-risk children aging through adolescence, consistent with the Institute’s strategic goals. Mental Health National.

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