Bryan McCormick, professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, is currently on a Fulbright Research and Teaching Award to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he is working with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to identify needs in community mental health organizations. The findings from McCormick’s evaluations will be used to improve the southeastern European country’s “users’ associations,” which are groups created to facilitate self-advocacy among mental health service consumers.
As part of the study, McCormick will use surveys and questionnaires to identify activities perceived as important by members of these users’ associations, assess outcomes, and identify perceptions of the associations’ effectiveness.
McCormick said that the users’ associations can vary dramatically across the country, which is still recovering from the Bosnian War and ethnic conflicts of the mid-1990s. Some are little more than informal meetups with few services; others are managed by professional staff that are often dismissive of the needs of mental health service consumers; and others offer a full range of mental health services and are managed autonomously by the very people receiving those services.
McCormick traveled to the country last fall to teach, conduct the surveys, and perform site visits to user associations across Bosnia and Herzegovina’s two entities and 10 cantons—the smaller member municipalities that make up the country and can vary widely in ethnic makeup and governing philosophies. Such division complicates large-scale changes, especially in the field of mental health.
“It is a fragmented system,” said McCormick. “The conditions that exist in one canton may not exist in another. This, combined with a stigma against those who use mental health services, makes change difficult.”
He will return this summer to continue research among the users’ associations and begin sharing his findings with local NGOs.