Clinical Psychology

Using community radio to communicate research findings

This pilot project is looking at the effect of a fictional radio drama developed for airing on community radio, on communicating research findings to community members in a South African township.

Exposure to traumatic events is a global issue; it is estimated that approximately 90% of the population will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. These events can be direct (i.e., happening to the individual) or indirect (i.e., being witnessed by the individual, or learning about the trauma at a later date). Certain countries, such as South Africa, report higher trauma prevalence rates, compared to others (e.g., Spain or Japan). Further, it is understood that a substantial number of those who experience trauma and may go on to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are also parents, who have at least one biological child in their care.

Evidence suggests that parents are faced with a number of challenges following traumatisation, including dealing with their own mental health and concerns about their child’s wellbeing, as well as perceiving negative impacts to specific parenting outcomes such as parent-child communication. In addition, in countries where there are higher reports of trauma (e.g., South Africa) it is suggested that parents’ experiences of trauma and the after effects may be different, due to contexts of high adversity or ongoing trauma exposure. However, despite the reporting of high rates of trauma experiences and the subsequent development of mental health disorders, it is estimated that only a small percentage of the population seek psychological support. This lack of utilisation of formal psychological support is not unique to South Africa, but is commonly found in the South African population as whole, but more particularly within the Black African population. There are a number of cultural, economic and practical barriers to accessing psychological support, which include the belief to resolve family concerns within the family, a lack of trust for psychological services, and limited mental health literacy. Further, the stigma of mental illness is a significant barrier to mental health services, with people noting feelings of embarrassment and shame when attempting to access support. Lastly, the cost of support or the cost of travelling to receive support were also noted as a significant barriers to seeking mental health treatment.

As part of her PhD, Hope Christie, worked with parents in the South African township of Khayelitsha in collaboration with colleagues at the Institute of Life Course Health Research (ILCHR). Findings from this work were recently published in an academic journal; however, these messages still needed to be fed back to community members. Findings from the research indicated that parents face a variety of challenges on a daily basis; including dealing with changes to their own mental health, which was difficult to process due to a lack of mental health literacy; community factors such as stigma and gossiping; challenges faced with parenting, and a lack of access or uptake of psychological support following their trauma.

As an alternative method of public engagement, Hope (as part of her Global Challenges Research Fellowship) has brought together a group of people to write, star in and produce a fictional drama to be aired on community radio in South Africa, based on results found in her PhD research. The drama will be recorded and produced in both English and isiXhosa (the native language spoken in Khayelitsha; and one of the three most commonly spoken languages in South Africa). The main aims of the drama will be to:

  1. Communicate messages of the research to community members
  2. Improve mental health literacy of the community in understanding different experiences of trauma and different reactions to those experiences
  3. Normalising traumatic stress reactions
  4. Advocating accessing psychological support and signposting to accessible organisations within the community that provide this service free of charge

Team: Hope Christie, Karen Goodall, Clara Calia, David Bishop (Napier), Jan Gatby (Napier), Mark Tomlinson (ILCHR), Sarah Skeen (ILCHR), Marguerite Marlow and Jackie Stewart (ILCHR).

Khayelitsha team (& voice actors): Yeukai Chideya, Xolani Shweni, Vuyolwethu Notholi, Neziwe Ntante, Vuyokazi Tasana, and Zanele Siqabatiso