UCL Global


UCL leads collaboration to improve mental health services in Colombia

15 January 2021

UCL is partnering with LSE, Universidad de los Andes, Colombia and local NGOs to reimagine mental health services in post-conflict communities

houses on hill in Colombia

“Starting from the bottom: Using Participatory Action Research to re-imagine local mental health services in Colombia” (STARS-C) is a collaboration between UCL Institute for Global Health, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, as well as local NGOs CorpoManigua and the Cooperative for Good Living and Peace in Caqueta (COOMBUVIPAC).

The new project received £330,000 in funding from ESRC/UKRI (UK) and Minciencias (Colombia) to build effective mental health provision in Colombian communities heavily affected by armed conflict and build new roads to peace. It will implement a participatory intervention designed to strengthen mental health care systems and result in a co-produced toolkit to guide institutions in scaling up community mental health services.

The project will focus on two Territorially Focused Development (PDET) communities in Caquetá-Colombia, working directly with those who have been affected by conflict including forcefully displaced populations, former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) members and local citizens. 

The project will utilise years of expertise in community development, global mental health and specialist knowledge of the impacts of the Colombian conflict. This is expanded through a novel collaboration that joins with economists, psychologists and public health doctors for integrating perspectives on institutional development, governance and policy making. 

Improving mental health outcomes is crucial in supporting the economic and social recovery of post-conflict countries. It is a Colombian national priority following the peace agreement of 2016, which was signed by the government and the FARC after more than five decades of conflict. 

Dr Rochelle Burgess (UCL Institute for Global Health), UK Principal Investigator, said: “For too long, the people who use mental health services have been left out of processes related to determining what counts as meaningful supports. I am so excited to be working alongside colleagues at LSE, Los Andes and our community partners Corpomanigua and COOMBUVIPAC, to push the boundaries on what counts as services and intervention to improve mental health. Thanks to ESRC/Newton Fund, we have the opportunity to build community mental health models from the bottom up, led by the people who matter most, everyday citizens whose mental health is at risk because of complex social worlds.”

“Starting from the bottom: Using Participatory Action Research to re-imagine local mental health services in Colombia” (STARS-C) will take place over a 28-month period from February 2021 to June 2023.

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