Skip to main content

Somatization & Treatment in Vietnamese Youth


This project will be done primarily in Vietnam at the Danang Psychiatric Hospital in collaboration with Trung T. Lam, M.D., as an extension of a previous NIH Grant.. This research represents a collaboration between Bahr Weiss, Ph.D. (PI), Vanderbilt University, and (b) Lam Trung, M.D. (co-PI and Major Foreign Collaborator), Vice-Director, Danang Psychiatric Hospital, Vietnam, as well as several additional Vietnamese and Western collaborators. Ultimate goals of this FIRCA are (a) to increase research capacity vis-'-vis children's mental health at the Danang Psychiatric Hospital (Vietnam), and (b) in the process, advance our knowledge regarding basic and clinical research aspects of children's mental health, in particular in regards to behavioral, social, and cultural processes related to somatization problems and their successful treatment, in children, adolescents, and young adults (hereafter referred to as "youth"). These broad goals will be achieved through implementation of two Specific Aims. Specific Aim #1 is to conduct two collaborative research projects with Dr. Trung and several other faculty at the Danang Psychiatric Hospital. The first collaborative projects will focus on individual and group ("mass psychogenic illness") somatization among Vietnamese youth. Somatization, including mass psychogenic illness, is increasingly being recognized as a serious problem in Vietnam by mental health professionals, and this series of studies will focus on identifying correlates of somatization hypothesized to be (a) risk factors for the development of somatization including stigma associated with "psychological" symptoms such as depression and anxiety (as opposed to "bodily" symptoms such as headaches) and (b) outcomes associated with somatization. The second collaborative project will focus on an empirical assessment of current mental health interventions in use in Vietnam, and how culturally appropriate interventions with greater efficacy may be developed and successfully disseminated. Specific Aim #2 is to conduct a series of training seminars and conferences that will provide training for the faculty at the Danang Psychiatric Hospital (as well as other interested professionals) that will complement the apprenticeship model learning from the collaborative projects. The conferences will focus on topics related to these projects, such as indigenous treatment approaches for psychopathology in Vietnamese youth. The conferences also will provide opportunities to discuss these topics with a broad spectrum of professionals from around the country as well as provide a venue for dissemination of preliminary findings.

The  project focuses on children's mental health, in particular somatization problems in children, identifying correlates of somatization, and empirical assessment of current mental health interventions in use in Vietnam. It therefore is directly relevant to public health.