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In a significant stride towards enhancing mental health services in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), our recent study, titled "Digital use of standardised assessment tools for children and adolescents: can available paper-based questionnaires be used free of charge in electronic format?" published in BMC Psychiatry on June 3, 2022, Volume 22, Article number: 379, sheds light on the feasibility of digitizing standardized assessment tools for children and adolescents. Spearheaded by Marianne Cottin, Kathrin Blum, Jon Konjufca, Yamil Quevedo, Sylvia Kaaya, Alex Behn, Klaus Schmeck, Carla Sharp, and Ronan Zimmermann, this research underscores the potential of digital solutions in overcoming barriers to mental health provision in under-resourced areas.

The Challenge at Hand

The mental health of children and adolescents in LMICs is a growing concern, with approximately 10% of the youth population facing mental health issues. The gap in mental health services in these regions is exacerbated by a lack of resources, including the prohibitive costs associated with evidence-based assessment tools. This gap not only hinders the early identification and treatment of mental health problems but also impacts the overall well-being and future prospects of this vulnerable population.

Our Approach

Our team revisited instruments from a prior review of paper-based tools and expanded our search to include tools for assessing personality disorders. We meticulously examined the copyright and license terms of 109 instruments to determine their suitability for digital adaptation and free usage. This endeavor was not without its challenges, notably the difficulty in accessing clear copyright information and the hurdles in communicating with authors and license holders.

Key Findings

Our findings are promising: we identified 53 instruments that are freely available and suitable for digital use across 11 mental health domains. This discovery paves the way for leveraging digital technology to bridge the mental health service gap in LMICs, offering a cost-effective strategy to improve accessibility to evidence-based assessment tools.

Moving Forward

The study highlights the critical need for a comprehensive, online repository of clinical instruments. Such a platform would not only facilitate access to these tools but also address the implementation barriers currently faced by health practitioners in LMICs. While our work marks a positive step towards addressing the mental health provision gap, it also underscores the complexities surrounding copyright issues and the necessity for a more streamlined approach to accessing these vital resources.

In conclusion, our study represents a solid contribution to the field of global mental health, as published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Psychiatry. It demonstrates the feasibility and importance of digitalizing mental health assessment tools for wider use in LMICs. It is a testament to the collaborative effort and commitment of our team to improve mental health services for children and adolescents worldwide. We are encouraged by our findings and remain dedicated to advancing this initiative, with the hope of making a lasting impact on global mental health practices.

Reference: Cottin, M., Blum, K., Konjufca, J., Quevedo, Y., Kaaya, S., Behn, A., Schmeck, K., Sharp, C., & Zimmermann, R. (2022). Digital use of standardised assessment tools for children and adolescents: can available paper-based questionnaires be used free of charge in electronic format? BMC Psychiatry, 22, 379. Link to the article.