Global Social Welfare

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 177–188 | Cite as

Building Mental Health Research Capacity in Kenya: a South-North Collaboration

  • Muthoni MathaiEmail author
  • Ann Vander Stoep
  • Manasi Kumar
  • Mary Kuria
  • Anne Obondo
  • Violet Kimani
  • Beatrice Amugune
  • Margaret Makanyengo
  • Anne Mbwayo
  • Mara Child
  • Jürgen Unützer
  • James Kiarie
  • Deepa Rao


This paper describes a mental health capacity-building partnership between the University of Nairobi (UON) and the University of Washington (UW) that was built upon a foundational 30-year HIV/AIDS research training collaboration between the two institutions. With funding from the US National Institute of Mental Health Medical Education Program Initiative (MEPI), UW and UON faculty collaborated to develop and offer a series of workshops in research methods, grant writing, and manuscript publication for UON faculty and postgraduate students committed to mental health research. UON and UW scientists provided ongoing mentorship to UON trainees through Skype and email. Three active thematic research groups emerged that focused on maternal and child mental health, gender-based violence, and HIV-related substance abuse. Challenges to conducting mental health research in Kenya included limited resources to support research activities, heavy teaching responsibilities, clinical duties, and administrative demands on senior faculty, and stigmatization of mental health conditions, treatment, and research within Kenyan society. The partnership yielded a number of accomplishments: a body of published papers and presentations at national and international meetings on Kenyan mental health topics, the institution of systematic mental health data collection in rural clinics, funded research proposals, and a mental health research resource center. We highlight lessons learned for future mental health research capacity-building initiatives.


Mental Health Medical Education Research Collaboration 


Funding Information

Funding for this work came from the National Institute of Health/ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) through award number R25MH099132 and D43DW010141.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All research conducted in this project receives approval from the KNH-UON Ethics and Research Committee (

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the National Institute of Mental Health.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Muthoni Mathai
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ann Vander Stoep
    • 2
    • 3
  • Manasi Kumar
    • 1
  • Mary Kuria
    • 1
  • Anne Obondo
    • 1
  • Violet Kimani
    • 4
  • Beatrice Amugune
    • 5
  • Margaret Makanyengo
    • 6
  • Anne Mbwayo
    • 1
  • Mara Child
    • 7
  • Jürgen Unützer
    • 7
  • James Kiarie
    • 8
    • 9
  • Deepa Rao
    • 10
    • 11
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, College of Health Sciences, Kenyatta National HospitalUniversity of NairobiNairobiKenya
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural SciencesEpidemiology University of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Child Health InstituteSeattleUSA
  4. 4.School of Public Health, Kenyatta National HospitalUniversity of NairobiNairobiKenya
  5. 5.School of Pharmacy, Kenyatta National HospitalUniversity of NairobiNairobiKenya
  6. 6.Kenyatta National HospitalUniversity of NairobiNairobiKenya
  7. 7.Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, School of Public Health and Department of Global HealthUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  8. 8.Department of Obstetrics and GynaecologyUniversity of NairobiNairobiKenya
  9. 9.World Health Organization, Human Reproduction TeamKenyatta National HospitalNairobiKenya
  10. 10.Department of Global Mental Health, Psychiatry and Behavioural SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  11. 11.Department of Global HealthHarborview Medical CenterSeattleUSA

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