2015 - 2019
Lebanon is a small middle-income country with 18 acknowledged religious groups, a diversity that causes regular political turmoil, internal conflict and border tensions. Lebanon hosts more than a million Syrian refugees, the second-highest number in the world. This greatly affects its political, economic and social stability.
Lebanese and Syrian refugees have significant mental health needs but the country lacks the specialized personnel needed to deal with their problems.
By using computerized psychological self-help therapy, or E-mental health, this project addresses diseases associated with anxiety and depression. Due to its digital nature, the intervention is cost-effective and scalable, and in line with the Lebanese mental health strategy 2015-2020. The therapy is also evidence-based and low intensity – meaning that it doesn’t need to be delivered by a specialized mental health professional – and therefore requires fewer resources. The delivery method is also ideal for Lebanon, a country with widespread access to internet and smart phones.
The E-mental health intervention adapts WHO’s face-to-face cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) program, known as PM+ (Problem Management Plus). Storytelling helps patients relate to the issue at hand and tackle depression or anxiety. Sessions are based on therapeutic principles: cognitive-behavioural elements, stress management (through a breathing exercise) and some cognitive coping.
The first phase of the project, undertaken with the support of the University of Zurich, is to develop a generic computer-based CBT (c-CBT) intervention in English that will then be adapted for Lebanon (in Arabic). The software will be tested in a few health service settings in Beirut and assess Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian refugees suffering from anxiety or depression. WHO is in charge of coordination and works closely with Lebanon’s Ministry of Health. The generic version will be used as the starting point for future adaptations in different contexts around the world.
In the second phase, the Lebanese c-CBT intervention will undergo randomized control trials (RCT) throughout Lebanon to scientifically confirm its effectiveness. This will provide rigorous evidence of the efficacy of an e-mental health approach in a middle-income country. Outcome evaluation is central to this project, and a mixed method (qualitative and quantitative) approach will be used.
More than 5,000 people are expected to benefit from the project within a few years of its completion.
professional personnel (psychologist, psychiatric nurses)
Activities and beneficiaries
mental health clinics involved
patients receiving treatment