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1700-sierraleone-100-shauensteinswan_dsf0769-min © Samuel Hauenstein Swan pour Action contre la Faim - Sierra Leone


Mental Health

Mental health and psychosocial support in response to onset of the COVID-19 pandemic: Emotional and Stress Management Intervention in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast

ESMI is a person-to-person two-session, non-specialized, mental health and psychosocial support intervention for adults and adolescents in the general population based in problem solving therapy and principles of emotional regulation.



Using de-identified programmatic data for each country, we conducted paired t-tests to assess whether adults and adolescents who received ESMI experienced changes in reported psychological distress and perceived social support following the intervention. We also performed pairwise correlations to test whether there were associations between changes in distress and social support over the course of participation in ESMI. Descriptive analyses were performed for presenting problems and coping strategies reported during the sessions.



Mean scores for psychological distress at baseline and follow-up were significantly different in all countries: Sierra Leone (mean (m) = -6.11; 95% confidence interval (CI) = -6.25 to -5.96); Ivory Coast (m = -3.21; 95% CI = -3.33 to -3.10); and Liberia (m = -2.86; 95% CI = -3.15 to -2.56). Changes in perceived social support were also statistically significant for Sierra Leone (m = 6.87; 95% CI = 6.72-7.02); Ivory Coast (m = 3.12; 95% CI = 2.97-3.27); and Liberia (m = 1.13; 95% CI = 1.00-1.27). Correlations (r) between changes in distress and changes in social support varied by country, and ranged from negative in Liberia, (r = -0.88, P = 0.001), to positive in Ivory Coast (r = 55, P = 0.001), and null in Sierra Leone (r = -0.07, P = 0.11).



Our findings show changes in psychological distress and perceived social support for participants who completed two sessions of ESMI, suggesting a potential benefit of ESMI as a person-to-person mental health and psychosocial support for individuals in distress affected by a pandemic. A future randomized controlled trial with a focus on key implementation factors (i.e., pre-testing visual analogue scales, treatment fidelity, and comparison of in-person vs remote) is recommended as next steps in research.


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