Researchers at UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and UC San Francisco have been awarded $4.7 million over five years by the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, to evaluate a project that supports the mental health needs of Latino patients with limited English proficiency.
The study, titled “Support From Peers to Expand Access,” or SUPERA, will focus on SilverCloud, a digital cognitive-behavioral therapy intervention for Spanish-speakers, according to an article by UCI News. Researchers will compare self-guided with peer-supported methods offered by the platform, according to Stephen Schueller, associate professor of psychological science and informatics at UC Irvine and co-director of the project.
“We don’t have enough professionals to provide mental health support to those in need,” Schueller said in an email. “This is even more the case when trying to find professionals with the cultural competence and linguistic abilities to provide services to those who are not White and not English speaking.”
The project intends to address this shortage of mental health care providers with the linguistic and cultural understanding to provide services to non-English speaking Latine patients by implementing a digital platform alongside a peer support program.
Through his previous projects, Schueller said he has found that there are few mental health tools for the Spanish speakers he is able to refer doctors to. According to an NIH report, Latino patients are half as likely as white patients to receive effective treatment for depression or anxiety.
“We were going around to different primary care clinics discussing a new project … and after a presentation to the docs, one doc chased us down after and asked what tools we had for Spanish speakers because that’s where they’re real need was and we had to respond that we didn’t have any which made us think we needed to come up with something,” Schueller said in an email.
The team will implement SilverCloud as the digital platform, which educates and provides resources to patients to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety, according to Adrian Aguilera, associate professor at the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare and co-director of the project.
The researchers will also look at the impact peer support has on the effectiveness of the digital platform. They anticipate that peer supporters will work to coach and keep patients engaged, according to Aguilera.
“We hope to show that pairing a digital intervention with peer supporters can help more people receive help for their mental health struggles, especially given the high level of need relative to resources for Spanish speakers,” Aguilera said in an email.