Emma and Meryem presenting Workstream 2’s preliminary findings at the 2018 HERON conference.

Emma and Meryem presenting Workstream 2’s preliminary findings at the 2018 HERON conference.

Support and Independence in the Community, presented a poster on “Community inclusion for people with psychosocial disabilities in Ghana and Palestine” at the ‘Health Inequalities Research Network’ (HERON) conference on 31st October 2018. Our PhD student, Emma Wynne-Bannister, and Research Assistant, Meryem Cicek, presented initial project findings related to Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in contexts of development and political conflict.  The poster focused on results emerging from interviews with service providers, including workers in health and social services and NGOs to consider: (1) What does “living independently and being included in the community” mean in Ghana and Palestine? and (2) How do barriers and resources impact on the ability of individuals to access adequate support and participate in their respective communities?

Community inclusion for people with psychosocial disabilities in Ghana and Palestine. Click to enlarge.

The results presented highlighted how inequalities are manifest in the distribution and ease of access to services for people with mental health problems in both settings. Providers of community support services expressed agreement with the aims of Article 19 of the CRPD. Yet, many perceived these ideals to be difficult to realise in practice due to political, economic, social and cultural concerns and perceptions of mental illness. In particular, economic insecurity and, in the context of Palestine, military occupation, have impacted on the availability of support services and were perceived by some to have depleted community solidarity. An emphasis on vulnerability and protection by many service providers may ensure care but can hinder the ability of persons with mental health problems to make choices and participate in the community on an equal basis with others.

The HERON conference brought together individuals, research groups, and organisations, each presenting their interventions and experiences in seeking to address a range of health-related issues. They adopted a health inequalities approach in their inquiry highlighting how social inequalities can produce distinct gradients in health, including mental health, and other aspects of life both within and between societies. Our team encountered questions by interested attendees which sparked discussions and generated points for the team’s consideration. Most notably, there were inquiries about why the specific locations of Ghana and Palestine were chosen, as well as the conceptualisation of community in non-Western settings. These discussions will, no doubt, feed back into strengthening research justifications and encourage further focus on articulating conceptualisations of community in these different settings, in relation to mental health.

Overall, the conference was a success! The involvement of junior members of our workstream enabled them to develop skills in summarising research results for presentation and in poster design, as well as learning how to engage diverse audiences with our research. Both Emma and Meryem expressed how insightful and fantastic an opportunity this event was for disseminating early findings from our workstream as well as learning more about methods and findings in the wider field of health inequalities research.