Washington University School of Medicine

Research (Inactive)

Rwanda Risk Study

This research is being done in collaboration with the University of Rwanda, Kigali. In this study, we are evaluating the risk for the development of psychotic and bipolar disorders in over 2,000 Rwandan secondary school and university students using the self-administered WERCAP screen. As part of this effort, the WERCAP Screen has been translated into the local Kinyarwandan language. The frequency and severity of individual psychotic and affective symptoms will be studied.

Rwanda, a small, central African country experienced the murder of about 1 million of its citizens in 1994, as well as the terrorizing, humiliation and rape of countless thousands. A UNICEF study of children revealed that 80% had experienced a death in the family, 70% had witnessed a killing or injury, 61% were threatened with being killed and 90% believed they would die. The children who experienced the genocide in Rwanda are now in their twenties, while many younger individuals have been indirectly affected by the fallout from those events. While high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder have been reported in children in the immediate aftermath of the genocide, epidemiologic studies of long-term mental health consequences in these children have not been extensively studied.

Affective and psychotic symptoms are well known consequences of stressful events, especially in genetically vulnerable individuals. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can be among the most disabling mental illnesses, with symptoms including hallucinations, delusions, disorganized behavior and severe mood swings.

We hope to extend our studies in Rwanda to study the progression of clinical symptoms and general functioning.

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