A community-based system dynamics approach for understanding factors affecting mental Health and Health seeking behaviors in Beirut and Beqaa regions of Lebanon
El Koussa, Maria
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Noubani, A., Diaconu, K., Ghandour, L., El Koussa, M., Loffreda, G. & Saleh, S. (2020) A community–based system dynamics approach for understanding factors affecting mental Health and Health seeking behaviors in Beirut and Beqaa regions of Lebanon. Globalization and Health, 16:28.
Background Available evidence on mental health and psychosocial problems in Lebanon is limited. Recent quantitative data suggests a high prevalence among Syrian refugees and their Lebanese host communities, with significant treatment gaps in both populations. This study aims to determine how Lebanese host and Syrian refugee communities perceive mental health, and identify health seeking behaviors and barriers to health access in two contrasting contexts of fragility.Methods A comparative qualitative study design was adopted whereby a total of 36 semi-structured interviews with Lebanese host and Syrian refugees’ community members were conducted, followed by a series of four participatory group model building (GMB) sessions. Participants were recruited from two contrasting fragility contexts: Beirut and Beqaa regions. During these sessions, causal loop diagrams were elicited depicting shared understandings of factors prompting the onset of mental health and psychosocial issues; health seeking behaviors, pathways and elements affecting the rate of health improvement and maintenance were also identified.Results Community members in both settings had similar perceptions of factors contributing to mental health. Participants named long-term effects of exposure to wars, political and social effects of conflicts, and financial constraints at the household level as precipitating factors prompting the onset of mental health and psychosocial stressors. Gender and integration related challenges between communities were identified as factors that affect condition onset and associated care seeking. Pathways for health seeking were found to be shaped by trust, the advice and support of loved ones, and the need to ensure confidentiality of affected individuals. Recurrent themes in discussion highlighted major barriers to healthcare access including significant delays in health care seeking from the formal health system, widespread social stigma, prohibitive service costs, lack of health coverage, limited awareness of mental health service availability and limited trust in the quality of services available.Conclusion Mental health and psychosocial support strategies need to be gender- and integration-sensitive, primarily focused on condition prevention and awareness raising in order to strengthen health-seeking behaviors.