Two groundbreaking research papers by UC Berkeley Anthropology Professor Andrew Wooyoung Kim reveal transformative insights into mental health, focusing on the intergenerational effects of mental well-being in Uganda and resilient coping mechanisms during the COVID-19 pandemic in metro Johannesburg, South Africa.
Titled "Maternal adverse childhood experiences, child mental health, and the mediating effect of maternal depression: A cross-sectional, population-based study in rural, southwestern Uganda," the first paper was published in the American Journal of Biological Anthropology in May. It examines the profound link between mothers' adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the mental well-being of their children in rural Uganda, highlighting the mediating role of maternal depression.
"We've uncovered an important link between maternal ACEs and their children's mental well-being," Kim said. "Our findings reveal that maternal depression may play a vital role in transmitting these adverse effects across generations, emphasizing the urgency to prioritize mental health support for these families."
The study not only reveals a significant relationship between maternal ACEs and child mental health problems but also shines a light on the potential role of maternal depression in this pathway. The findings are a call to action to address mental health needs, Kim said, particularly in post-colonial areas with histories of societal oppression and elevated rates of psychiatric morbidity.
Titled “Coping strategies employed by public psychiatric healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in southern Gauteng, South Africa,” the second paper was published in PLOS ONE in August. It explores the diverse coping strategies employed by public psychiatric healthcare workers during the pandemic in the metropolitan Johannesburg area.
“This research illuminates the adaptability and creativity of individuals facing unprecedented healthcare challenges,” Kim said. “The psychiatric healthcare workers' ability to innovate in the face of extreme adversity is particularly inspiring. Understanding these coping strategies is vital for building short-term support systems for healthcare workers, providing a roadmap for bolstering psychiatric service delivery while also improving patient outcomes in times of healthcare emergencies.”
The study identified seven major coping mechanisms and emphasized the success of various strategies that helped preserve well-being and overcome pandemic-related adversity in metro Johannesburg.
Both studies contribute significant understanding of the generational impacts of mental health issues and the coping mechanisms used during a global pandemic. Kim’s research underscores the urgent need for prioritizing mental health in historically marginalized communities and serves as a catalyst for developing interventions and support systems tailored to the unique challenges of different communities.