World Mental Health Day 2020: one LSTM student’s research on mental health amongst health workers in Sierra Leone

News article 9 Oct 2020
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Dr Sia Morenike Mojama Tengbe

“When I feel weak and don’t want to go work, I remember my nurse’s and military pledge, so I need to fulfil my duty…”. LSTM student’s research on mental health amongst health workers in Sierra Leone.

Dr Sia Morenike Mojama Tengbe  is an LSTM student in the 2019/2020 cohort for the MSc in International Public Health-Sexual and Reproductive Health. She is funded through a Chevening scholarship.  Sia is doctor from Sierra Leone and conducted her dissertation research on "Delivering Healthcare Services during an Outbreak" The Psychosocial Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Ebola Outbreak on Healthcare Workers in Freetown, Sierra Leone”. Following discussion with her supervisor,  Sia decided to reorient her original dissertation ideas to focus on the psycho-social impacts of COVID-19 on health care workers in Freetown. Sia has produced an excellent dissertation.  Due to the pandemic Sia used “distance” qualitative interviews (through zoom and whastapp). Being a Sierra Leonean doctor, she was well positioned to recruit participants, develop rapport from afar and conduct trustworthy interviews. Her data, analysis and recommendations are very convincing and are being shared in Sierra Leone and Sia is also writing up her dissertation as an academic paper.

We have produced 2 videos. The first shows Sia’s recommendations and the research process and findings (video below).

Videos from Sia reflecting on her research process, findings will also be used in the qualitative research teaching for this year’s cohort. There is a growing interest in “distance” qualitative research and Sia’s research is a strong example of  what can be achieved from afar.

Sia says “This was my first experience of qualitative research; it was challenging but rewarding too. I have learnt about value of qualitative research particular  in the current climate, the need to understand people’s voices and lived experiences and the implications for strengthening psychosocial support for health workers and the broader health system”

We must prioritise health care workers mental health globally and as Sia says in the videos “health is incomplete without mental health”.