Passionate child and adolescent mental health researcher, Dr Gbotemi Babatunde.

Study Explores Child and Adolescent Mental Health

Dr Gbotemi Babatunde was awarded a PhD for her study titled: An Exploration of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Care Services in a Low Resource District in South Africa.

The study was supervised by global mental health expert Professor Inge Petersen.

Using a resource-constrained district in South Africa as a case study, Babatunde investigated the current state of child and adolescent mental health (CAMH); available resources and the range of services provided; existing pathways to CAMH care; and the barriers and facilitators of access.

The study engaged with key stakeholders (caregivers, health-care workers, teachers, social workers, and community representatives) to document their experiences of providing and accessing CAMH services and their perceptions of the quality of CAMH services available in the district.

Babatunde said a participatory workshop was held with stakeholders from the Departments of Health, Education, and Social Development to identify potential strategies to address CAMH service bottlenecks.

‘The suggested strategies were used to map a Theory of Constraints (ToC) model that the district could use to develop a feasible district CAMH plan that will potentially improve access to CAMH services,’ she said.

She added that data collection was a learning experience as she learnt to interact and build trust with participants and navigate different odds to acquire rich data.

‘The most exciting part was the participatory workshop. Bringing all the stakeholders together to brainstorm possible solutions to the identified challenges was fulfilling. I look forward to returning to the district to present the ToC logic model to the participants, refine it, and hand it over to them for implementation,’ said Babatunde.

She has been awarded a College of Health Sciences postdoctoral fellowship. ‘My postdoctoral research will build on the PhD findings, focusing on extending the Community Mental Health Education and Detection (CMED) tool developed by the Southern African Research Consortium for Mental health INTegration (S-MhINT) to include CAMH conditions,’ she said.

‘The proposed psychoeducation intervention will educate children and adolescents, parents/caregivers, and the community to improve mental health literacy and facilitate early identification and effective management of CAMH conditions.’

She said despite the severe consequences of under-prioritising CAMH problems, mental health services for children and adolescents remain scarce in low resource settings.

‘I will like to be involved in studies focused on developing prevention, early identification, treatment, and CAMH system strengthening interventions, particularly at the community level.’

Babatunde received her honours and master’s degrees at UKZN. She developed a passion for child and adolescent mental health research during her master’s. She thanked Petersen for her support throughout her study.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini