Building resilience and resources to overcome depression and anxiety in young people from urban neighbourhoods in Latin America is a collaboration led by Stefan Priebe and Victoria Bird at Queen Mary’s Unit for Social and Community Psychiatry, with a large international multidisciplinary team in London, Bogotà, Buenos Aires, Lima and Rio de Janeiro. Paul Heritage of PPP is leading on the arts activity strand as Co-Investigator.

Depression and anxiety are leading causes of disability worldwide, particularly during adolescence where prevalence rapidly increases. This risk may be even greater where individuals are exposed to multiple stressors such as armed conflict, poverty, social isolation, trauma, displacement and violence. Adolescents and young people in urban environments may be more likely to experience these stress factors. The World Health Organization has identified reducing adolescent depression and anxiety as a key priority in order to promote sustained economic and social development.

Yet, despite the impact that depression and anxiety can have, many adolescents and young adults do not develop either condition, and up to 50% of young people recover from a single episode within a year. This raises the question of what factors protect and prevent individuals from developing these disorders, and which factors promote recovery.

Working with young people and mental health and arts professionals in Argentina, Colombia and Peru, this project aims to identify resilience factors that are associated with the prevention of depression and anxiety and with recovery, in order to inform the development of potential interventions.

Arts methodologies will be used during focus group work to open up discussions with adolescents and young people about their relationships to and use of resources. Arts work will also be used to explore attitudes and perceptions about depression and/or anxiety in young people, in order to reveal individual, social and contextual resilience factors and the significance of different clinical and non-clinical resources in their own recovery from depression and/or anxiety. The project will involve networks of local civil society organisations to assess how communities and services can respond to depression and/or anxiety, and to strengthen resilience.

This project is funded by the Medical Research Council and Global Challenges Research Fund.