After the recent peace agreement in Colombia between FARC and the government, the authorities are facing the huge challenge of rebuilding communities, public services and peaceful coexistence, particularly in the areas most severely marked by the armed conflict. The mental health gap, including absence of health care to stigmatized and vulnerable groups (e.g. ex-combatants, internally displaced people, mentally ill and other minorities), makes up a considerable challenge, where new knowledge is needed. This research project will analyse existing health information and undertake a supplementary mixed methods study in five selected conflict-ridden departments of Colombia. The study will comprise a survey based on a proportional sample of 2500 persons as well as 10 focus group interviews. The project is carried out in a collaboration between DIGNITY, the Colombian Ministry of Health and the private Universidad Externado. Based on quantitative and qualitative data about, inter alia, violence exposure, mental health needs, service preferences, social capital and stigmatization of the populations, health interventions addressing these needs will be designed and pilot tested in the five departments. A monitoring and evaluation system will be set up, providing data on the usage and effectiveness of the intervention. Local stakeholders will be engaged in the research project. Five scientific articles and five reports in Spanish will be produced. Preparations for a follow-up project, scaling up the intervention, will be made. Valuable new research capacity will be developed for all three partner organisations as well as with the field teams in the five departments.
The partners have agreed on the conceptual model directing the research, and also in which regions of Colombia the study and pilot-interventions will take place (in the departments of Bolívar, Cauca, Meta, Tolima and Putumayo). The research methodologies in terms of data collection and sampling strategy have also been agreed, following thorough discussions of criteria. A mixed-methods approach using both qualitative and quantitative methods will be applied.