Case study 1

Translating the experience of emotional distress

What happens when emotional distress crosses borders of geography, language, beliefs and practices? How do these various borders impact on the relevance and validity of psychosocial interventions aimed at reducing this distress?  This case study will document, analyse and compare the complex translation processes associated with understanding and supporting the mental health needs of people living in Scotland and Uganda.

On the one hand, the research will study the mediating role of processes of translation and interpretation in the provision of support to migrant unaccompanied minors completing the ESOL 16+ programme at the Anniesland campus of Glasgow and Clyde College.  This aspect of the case study will focus on taboo topics that have been silenced through trauma or are untranslatable.  Innovative ways of ensuring safe disclosure and effective translation will be examined, and creative arts will be used as both restorative research methods and trauma-informed educational tools. This will facilitate multimodal forms of expression beyond direct narration including artistic expression, drama, devising, and music.

On the other hand, the research will conduct preliminary work that will assist with the development of psychosocial interventions for emotional distress in Uganda (a country in Central Africa).  Research recruiting former child soldiers in Uganda has demonstrated high levels of psychopathology (including PTSD) associated with complex trauma (Klasen et al., 2013).  As a group, women living in Uganda have also been victims of complex trauma.  For example, Liebling et al. (2011) have highlighted the pronounced physical and psychological impact that sexual violence and torture has had on women living in Northern Uganda.  In this context, there is widespread recognition of the need to make psychosocial interventions more widely available in Uganda to support groups who have been traumatised in the country.  Kigozi et al. (2010) has highlighted the limited infrastructure and resources for mental health system in Uganda.  To address, the lack of available resource, Caritas (an international NGO) has been engaged in a programme of activity aimed at providing support for rural communities in the Lira district of Uganda.

These initiatives would benefit greatly from research exploring how people living in the Lira region experience and express emotional distress.  Specifically there is a need to tailor psychosocial interventions to incorporate Lango language terms that are used by people in the Lira district to express emotional distress.  To address this area of need, qualitative research methods will be used to explore two priority topics:

1) The problems that adults in the community face from their perspective, and
2) The key function/tasks that adults living in this region are required to undertake.

The research procedures that will be used to elicit this information will include:

A) Free listing interviews
B) Key informant interviews
C) Focus Group Discussions.

The research team will work with local Lango speaking research assistants who will interview members of the Lira District community in Lango.  The research will apply Scarry’s (1985) work on language disintegration under pressure of physical pain, and of advocacy as a form of translation practice.  Its two parts will be conducted by a team composed of Ross White (Clinical Psychologist), Katja Frimberger and Alison Phipps, with Lyn Ma.