Mental Health Research

 The unit spearheads mental health research including drug and substance use.

  • Set a mental health research agenda
  • To develop and test tools and solutions for drug and substance use
  • To undertake clinical trials in mental health
  • Support KEMRI staff and other institutions in addressing mental health problems
  • Provide clinical services for staff clinic
  • Attract funding and partnerships for mental health research

Dr. Linnet Ongeri is a researcher in the field of mental health working at the Centre for Clinical Research in the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and a current postdoctoral fellow in the Global Initiative for Neuropsychiatric Genetics Education in Research (GINGER) program, hosted jointly by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Having worked in Kenya for the last 10 years as a medical doctor and later as a psychiatrist, Dr. Ongeri has gained meaningful experience and understanding of the dire needs of the mentally ill in Kenya. She informs that a key challenge that stands out in both her clinical and research experience is the growing burden of mental illnesses in the country. Mental disorders are not only highly prevalent but also highly disabling if left untreated. Despite the existence of effective treatment, 75 percent of people with serious mental illness in the region do not receive any treatment. Inaccessibility of mental health treatment is a key contributor to the large treatment gap. The country and region grapple with inadequate financial and human resource allocation to mental health. Innovative programs that tap into already existing physical and human resources can go a long way to addressing this gap. It is for this same reason that she has been drawn to research approaches that strive to design culturally and regionally appropriate models of integrating mental health care in primary health care at community level.

ACHIEVEMENTS. /MILESTONES

Following the malaria, mental health and Immunity household survey, Dr. Ongeri has collaborated closely with Prof. Rachel Jenkins, formerly at WHO and now emeritus lecturer at King’s College London. Together, they continue to publish papers and apply for funding in collaboration with the team in the UK. She has also established strong networks with the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) through Prof. Susan Meffert her primary mentor for the GloCal (Fogarty) funding and the PI for the RCT focusing on interpersonal psychotherapy. They have recently been awarded an NIH grant to scale up the RCT work for IPT further strengthening this collaboration. In addition, her recent postdoc fellowship, she established strong networks with a number of researchers/faculty from Harvard University in Boston as well as the Broad Institute that focuses on genetics research work. This postdoc fellowship furthermore brings together 17 fellows from around Africa (Uganda, Ethiopia, South Africa and Kenya). They have penned a paper in the Lancet describing this strong collaboration that seeks to capacity build in the areas of psychiatry genetics in Africa. The Neurogap a research project looking at the genetics research in which Dr. Ongeri is  collaborating with Wellcome Trust as a co-investigator in the project. She is currently pursuing a PhD on Suicidal behavior as a sub-study of the NeuroGAP project, the PhD is through additional networks with Vrije University in Netherlands. Lastly, as an elected member (Treasurer) of the national executive committee for the Kenya Psychiatric Association, Dr. Ongeri is strategically positioned to foster numerous networks with national, regional and international partners interested in mental health related collaborations.

ONGOING RESEARCH SUPPORT

 

OXF-NGP02

PI: Newton C.

Date: Jan 2017-Dec 2022

Oxford University Grant

Title: Neuropsychiatric Genetics of African Populations – Psychosis (NeuroGAP-Psychosis)

Goal: This study involves genetic analysis of saliva samples from 4,000 Kenyan participants (2,000 adults with psychotic disorder, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, (N=2000) of controls comprising those without psychotic disorders). Kenya is contributing to a total of 14,600 samples being recruited for NeuroGAP, with other sites in South Africa and Uganda. The study aims at estimating the fraction of psychosis and bipolar disorder attributable to inherited genetic differences, determining the distribution of genetic Copy Number Variants (CNV) in those with these disorders, and utilizing genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to look for new genetic variants associated with psychotic disorders in Africa.

Role: Co-investigator

 

R01 (MH11372201A1)/GACD U01 (MH-17-650)

PI: Meffert S/ Mathai M

Date:  26/05/2018 to Dec 2023

Funding agency: NIMH

Title: Depression And Primary-Care Partnership for Effectiveness-Implementation Research [SMART-DAPPER])

Goal: The goal of the study is to: (i) test strategies for integrating non-specialist delivery of 1st and 2nd line evidence-based depression and/or trauma-disorder treatments with primary care services at a large public sector hospital in Kisumu, Kenya and to conduct robust cost (ii) cost-benefit analyses of each treatment to produce a “menu” of cost-benefit options for policy-makers to address two of the most common mental disorders in the region.

Role: Co-investigator

 

KEMRI/GRG/15/16

PI: Linnet Ongeri

Date:  04/012/2015- Dec 2019

Government of Kenya exchequer Account 

Title: Prevalence, Correlates and Evaluation of Treatment Modalities for Drug and Substance Use in Kiambu and Nakuru Counties

Goal: The study uses a mixed method approach to determine the prevalence, pattern and associated comorbidities related to drug and substance use among 1,691 participants in Kiambu and Nakuru Counties. The team explore stakeholders’ perceptions on the disease burden as well as best preventive and care treatment strategies. By conducting a pilot nested quasi experimental study on a sub sample of alcohol users, the team will generate evidence on integrated provision of mental health services by comparing the outcome of two recommended alcohol use disorder therapy modalities in health centres in Kiambu County.

Role: Principal Investigator

 

COMPLETED RESEARCH SUPPORT 

K23MH098767

PI: Meffert  S

Date:  26/05/2014 to Dec 2018

NIMH

Title: A Capacity Building Randomized Controlled Trial of Interpersonal Psychotherapy for HIV+ Women Affected by Gender Based Violence.

Goal: The goal of the study is to develop a locally delivered, sustainable mental health intervention (IPT) for depression and PTSD among HIV+GBV+ women in Nyanza Province, Kenya.

Role: Co-investigator

 

       

 PI: Meffert  S

Date:  May 2015- Dec 2017

UCSF Resource Allocation Program (RAP)

Title: Law, Advocacy and Mental health Project (LAMP)

Goal: The goal of the study is to identify the mental health impact of providing testimony to FIDA legal providers for women with claims related GBV.

Role: Co-investigator

 

GRG 200/136

PI:Dr. Mbakaya Charles

Date:  01/01/2015- 01/01/2016

Government of Kenya exchequer Account 

Title: Assessing Health Factors and Experiences Associated with Khat Handling and Chewing in Selected Areas of Kenya.

Goal: The goal of the study was to obtain data on Khat chewing including health effects and social effects which will enable informed guidelines for policy formulation and regulation of substance abuse in Kenya

Role: Co-investigator

 

PI: Linnet Ongeri

Date:  01/07/2014- 01/10/2015

Funding agency: GloCal Funds

Title: Mental Health Needs Assessment in a Primary Care Facility in Kaloleni, Kenya.

Goal: The study sought to investigate the prevalence of common mental disorders in the region as well as examine the knowledge, barriers as well as preferences to mental health care delivery in the area.

Role: Co-investigator

 

Travel grant

PI: Jenkins

Date:  01/01/2014-01/01/2015

UK Department for International Development, Nuffield Foundation 

Title: Mental Disorder, Malaria and Immunity in Maseno Division, Western Kenya- A Household Survey

Goal: This was a household survey that sought to help us understand the interlink between malaria, immunity and common mental disorders. Through this survey we were able to determine the prevalence of common mental disorders: Depression, PTSD, alcohol and substance abuse, ADHD in the region. We also determined the prevalence of Malaria in adults residing in the region.

Role: Co-investigator

 

(IRG)-110/4

PI: Linnet Ongeri

Date:  01/21/2014-01/21/2015

KEMRI Internal Research Grant

Title: Rates of Maternal Depression Among Women Attending Selected Maternal and Child Health Clinics in Nairobi, Kenya.

Goal: This was a follow up study with the goal of determining the rates of antepartum depression, incidence of postpartum depression and determinants of maternal depression. The study also assessed the feasibility of administering a screening instrument (EPDS) at primary care level.

Role: Principal Investigator

 

ACHIEVEMENTS. /MILESTONES

Following the malaria, mental health and Immunity household survey, Dr. Ongeri has collaborated closely with Prof. Rachel Jenkins, formerly at WHO and now emeritus lecturer at King’s College London. Together, they continue to publish papers and apply for funding in collaboration with the team in the UK. She has also established strong networks with the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) through Prof. Susan Meffert her primary mentor for the GloCal (Fogarty) funding and the PI for the RCT focusing on interpersonal psychotherapy. They have recently been awarded an NIH grant to scale up the RCT work for IPT further strengthening this collaboration. In addition, her recent postdoc fellowship, she established strong networks with a number of researchers/faculty from Harvard University in Boston as well as the Broad Institute that focuses on genetics research work. This postdoc fellowship furthermore brings together 17 fellows from around Africa (Uganda, Ethiopia, South Africa and Kenya). They have penned a paper in the Lancet describing this strong collaboration that seeks to capacity build in the areas of psychiatry genetics in Africa. The Neurogap a research project looking at the genetics research in which Dr. Ongeri is  collaborating with Wellcome Trust as a co-investigator in the project. She is currently pursuing a PhD on Suicidal behavior as a sub-study of the NeuroGAP project, the PhD is through additional networks with Vrije University in Netherlands. Lastly, as an elected member (Treasurer) of the national executive committee for the Kenya Psychiatric Association, Dr. Ongeri is strategically positioned to foster numerous networks with national, regional and international partners interested in mental health related collaborations.

 

AWARDS AND HONORS:

    1. 2013 Awarded a mentored position to participate in a 2-year National Mentorship Project for Early Career/Young women Scientists, entitled “Enhancing the Capacity of Young Women Scientists in Science Technology and Innovation (ST&I) through mentorship, Training and Networking”
    2. 2014 Global Health Fogarty funded research fellowship Award

 

  • 2015 2nd Runner Up Best speaker IRG Symposium KASH Conference.
  • 2017   Awarded a 3 year Harvard fellowship program in Neuropsychiatry Genetics (Global Initiatives in Neuropsychiatry Genetic Education and Research; GINGER)

 

Published Works in her bibliographyhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/myncbi/18sNm-jQk1VAD/bibliography/public/

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