Participatory mental health interventions in low-income and middle-income countries: a realist review protocol

Cheyann J Heap, Hannah Maria Jennings, Kaaren Mathias, Himal Gaire, Farirai Gumbonzvanda, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, Garima Gupta, Sumeet Jain, Bidya Maharjan, Rakchhya Maharjan, Sujen Man Maharjan, Pashupati Mahat, Pooja Pillai, Martin Webber, Jerome Wright, Rochelle Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


INTRODUCTION: The launch of the Movement for Global Mental Health brought long-standing calls for improved mental health interventions in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) to centre stage. Within the movement, the participation of communities and people with lived experience of mental health problems is argued as essential to successful interventions. However, there remains a lack of conceptual clarity around 'participation' in mental health interventions with the specific elements of participation rarely articulated. Our review responds to this gap by exploring how 'participation' is applied, what it means and what key mechanisms contribute to change in participatory interventions for mental health in LMICs.

METHODS AND ANALYSIS: A realist review methodology will be used to identify the different contexts that trigger mechanisms of change, and the resulting outcomes related to the development and implementation of participatory mental health interventions, that is: what makes participation work in mental health interventions in LMICs and why? We augment our search with primary data collection in communities who are the targets of global mental health initiatives to inform the production of a programme theory on participation for mental health in LMICs.

ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: Ethical approval for focus group discussions (FGDs) was obtained in each country involved. FGDs will be conducted in line with WHO safety guidance during the COVID-19 crisis. The full review will be published in an academic journal, with further papers providing an in-depth analysis on community perspectives on participation in mental health. The project findings will also be shared on a website, in webinars and an online workshop.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere057530
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Developing Countries
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Mental Health
  • Poverty

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