Skip to main content

Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Celebrating 75 Years! Learn More >>

Youth Functioning and Organizational Success for West African Regional Development (Youth FORWARD)

Youth Functioning and Organizational Success for West African Regional Development (Youth FORWARD)


Contact Principal Investigator: Theresa Betancourt, Sc.D., M.A.

Hub Activity Sites 

Sierra Leone
United States

Project Overview

Youth Functioning and Organizational Success for West African Regional Development  (Youth FORWARD) is a mental health services research/implementation science initiative involving local governments, non-governmental organizations, the World Bank, and academic institutions. Its dual focus is the science of scaling up mental health care for high-risk youth in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and the expansion of local capacity to conduct and use further research. An implementation study is taking place in Sierra Leone. Capacity-building activities are occurring in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Implementation Research Study

The implementation study is designed to assess the integration of a transdiagnostic mental health intervention based on common practice elements derived from both cognitive-behavioral therapy and group interpersonal therapy—called the Youth Readiness Intervention (YRI)—into the Youth Employment Scheme, a national youth employment program funded by the Government of Sierra Leone with support from the World Bank. The YRI comprises six evidence-based common practice elements used in trauma-informed care for youth exposed to violence and loss (psychoeducation, emotion regulation/relaxation skills, cognitive restructuring, behavioral activation, building interpersonal skills, and problem solving).  The study compares two approaches for implementing YRI:  an Interagency Collaborative Team approach versus a conventional training and supervision strategy. The two approaches are compared in terms of costs and impact on fidelity and sustained delivery.

Research Capacity Building

The capacity-building component delivers training and technical assistance to increase the regional knowledge base and capacity for implementation research in mental health; increase the use of evidence in developing mental health policies and programs; increase the use of rigorous evaluation methods to measure program effectiveness; and accelerate efforts to scale up evidence-based mental health programs that will close the mental health treatment gap.