A qualitative study of mental health problems among orphaned children and adolescents in Tanzania

Shannon Dorsey, Leah Lucid, Laura Murray, Paul Bolton, Dafrosa Itemba, Rachel Manongi, Kathryn Whetten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Low-and middle-income countries have a high number of orphans, many of whom have unmet mental health needs. Effective mental health interventions are needed; however, it is necessary to understand how mental health symptoms and needs are perceived locally to tailor interventions and refine measurement of intervention effects. We used an existing rapid ethnographic assessment approach to identify mental health problems from the perspective of orphans and guardians to inform a subsequent randomized controlled trial of a Western-developed, evidence-based psychosocial intervention, Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Local Kiswahilispeaking interviewers conducted 73 free list interviews and 34 key informant interviews. Results identified both common cross-cultural experiences and symptoms as well as uniquely described symptoms (e.g., lacking peace, being discriminated against) not typically targeted by the intervention or included on standardized measures of intervention effects. We discuss implications for adapting mental health interventions in low-and middle-income countries and assessing effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)864-870
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nervous and Mental Disease
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2015


  • Assessment
  • Child and adolescent
  • Cross-cultural
  • Global mental health
  • Grief
  • Mental health
  • PTSD
  • Qualitative
  • Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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