Mental health among Ebola survivors in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea
Results from a cross-sectional study
Secor, A., Macauley, R., Stan, L., Kagone, M., Sidikiba, S., Sow, S., Aronovich, D., Litvin, K., Davis, N., Alva, S., & Sanderson, J. (2020). Mental health among Ebola survivors in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea: Results from a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open, 10(5), e035217. Article e035217. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2019-035217
Objectives To describe the prevalence and correlates of depression and anxiety among adult Ebola virus disease (EVD) survivors in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Setting One-on-one surveys were conducted in EVD-affected communities in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in early 2018.
Participants 1495 adult EVD survivors (726 male, 769 female).
Primary and secondary outcome measures Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) depression scores and Generalised Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) scores.
Results Prevalence and severity of depression and anxiety varied across the three countries. Sierra Leone had the highest prevalence of depression, with 22.0% of participants meeting the criteria for a tentative diagnosis of depression, compared with 20.2% in Liberia and 13.0% in Guinea. Sierra Leone also showed the highest prevalence of anxiety, with 10.7% of participants meeting criteria for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD-7 score ≥10), compared with 9.9% in Liberia and 4.2% in Guinea. Between one-third and one-half of respondents reported little interest or pleasure in doing things in the previous 2 weeks (range: 47.0% in Liberia to 37.6% in Sierra Leone), and more than 1 in 10 respondents reported ideation of self-harm or suicide (range: 19.4% in Sierra Leone to 10.4% in Guinea). Higher depression and anxiety scores were statistically significantly associated with each other and with experiences of health facility-based stigma in all three countries. Other associations between mental health scores and respondent characteristics varied across countries.
Conclusions Our results indicate that both depression and anxiety are common among EVD survivors in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, but that there is country-level heterogeneity in prevalence, severity and correlates of these conditions. All three countries should work to make mental health services available for survivors, and governments and organisations should consider the intersection between EVD-related stigma and mental health when designing programmes and training healthcare providers.