gender-based violence

Behavioural intervention can help decrease psychological distress among women with a history of gender-based violence. A clinical trial determines the effectiveness of a community-taught behavioral treatment on psychological distress.

Gender-based violence toward women has been linked to increased mental stress and psychological morbidity in low and middle-income countries worldwide, specifically in urban Kenya. The treatment of even common mental disorders associated with gender-based violence can be a lengthy and delicate process. The goal of a recent clinical trial published in PloS Medicine was to test the efficacy of a five-session therapy that community workers can use to decrease psychological distress among the population.

Researchers screened 1,393 adult women in this single-blind, parallel, randomised trial for psychological distress and impaired function symptoms. The trial participants were then grouped into either the new Problem Management Plus (PM+) program or standard enhanced usual care (EUC) program. Participants were informed of their therapy assignment, but the research assessors were the study’s blind variable, administering care only in the framework they were assigned. Of the 1,393 women screened, 421 experienced gender-based violence and were most suited for the study. There were 209 assigned to PM+ care and 212 allocated to EUC. Assessments were taken for psychological distress metrics at three months after treatment using a General Health Questionnaire, followed by post-traumatic stress, personally identified problems, and stressful life events checklists.

The trial demonstrated the value of brief, lay-administered behavioral mediation (PM+), compared with standard EUC. Psychological distress showed a marked reduction via test after the three-month follow-up but results were limited by no long-term follow-up, and reliance on participant’s comfort with self-reporting rather than empirical interview data.  This study indicates that this brief, lower cost intervention has the potential to allow increased mental health services to women experiencing gender-based violence in developing countries that lack mental health specialists.

Written by Cooper Powers, BSc


Anjuri, Bryant, et al. “Effectiveness of a brief behavioral intervention on psychological distress among women with a history of gender-based violence in urban Kenya: A randomised clinical trial.” PLoS Medicine 14(8): e1002371.

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