NIH Funds UAMS Study of Depression Program in Delta

By David Robinson

A UAMS research team and its 24 partner churches will test the effectiveness of a depression education and treatment program, in addition to strategies for sustaining it when funding expires. The grant is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health.

The research team is led by community-based researchers Tiffany Haynes, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, and Karen Yeary, Ph.D., who has developed strong research partnerships with faith leaders in the Delta over the past 10 years. Their co-investigators include UAMS’ Keneshia Bryant, Ph.D., R.N.; Teresa Kramer, Ph.D.; Geoffrey Curran, Ph.D.; the Rev. Jerome Turner, of Marvell; and the Rev. Johnny Smith, of Pine Bluff.

The eight-session program, administered by church leaders, will focus on emotional wellness, helping people who may have depressive symptoms before they develop clinical depression. The sessions are adapted to include faith-based themes, scripture, and other aspects of rural African-American faith culture. The aim of the sessions is to improve emotional well-being through preventive approaches. Anyone experiencing depression or other mental illness will be guided to a mental health professional.

“Churches in African-American rural communities are a key partner to reach people,” said Yeary, an associate professor in the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health. “We’ve partnered with churches to address physical health issues in the past, but this is the first time we’ve addressed emotional well-being.”

A survey developed by UAMS and its faith-based partners went to 30 churches and identified depression as a significant health issue for rural African-Americans.

The trust built over the years between UAMS and rural African-American churches will help make the intervention a success, said Turner, who pastors two churches in Phillips County.

“UAMS has incorporated community at all levels of decision making, so the community knows that its voice is being heard,” Turner said. “I believe we will have very good results at the conclusion of this study because we are serious about the issue and we work extremely well as a team.”

Haynes, assistant professor in the College of Public Health, noted that rural African-Americans are disproportionately exposed to poverty, racism and discrimination, putting them at higher risk for experiencing depressive symptoms and development of clinical depression. Having depressive symptoms can lead to a host of negative outcomes, including both the development of and poor management of chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes, poor social functioning and poor occupational functioning, she said. Although there are effective treatments, rural African-Americans often do not receive care.

“Concerns about the mental health of rural African-Americans have been raised before, but this was the first time anyone has documented that concern and taken this unique approach,” said Haynes, whose early work on the project was supported by the UAMS Translational Research Institute’s two-year KL2 Mentored Research Career Development Scholar Award Program.





UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise including its hospital, regional clinics and clinics it operates or staffs in cooperation with other providers. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. U.S. News & World Report recognized UAMS Medical Center as a Best Hospital for 2021-22; ranked its ear, nose and throat program among the top 50 nationwide for the third year; and named five areas as high performing — colon cancer surgery, diabetes, hip replacement, knee replacement and stroke. Forbes magazine ranked UAMS as seventh in the nation on its Best Employers for Diversity list. UAMS also ranked in the top 30% nationwide on Forbes’ Best Employers for Women list and was the only Arkansas employer included. UAMS has 2,876 students, 898 medical residents and six dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children's, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.