SOWK 440J/571: Global Mental Health (2024S)

Applications for the SOWK 440J/571 course are currently closed.

Program Overview

SOWK 440J/571 is a 3 credit course that will take place in Nairobi, Kenya and will be taught by Professor Mohamed Ibrahim. The course will run over 5 weeks beginning in May 2024 and will include community-based attachments.

This course is eligible for Arts Research Abroad (ARA) funding. Arts courses that are designated as ARA courses will provide an award which will cover up to 70% of program costs and flight for eligible students. In cases of demonstrated financial need (determined by Enrolment Services), ARA may fund up to 100% of the program costs and flight.
See below for More Information on Funding Opportunities or check out our Funding page here.

Course Description

According to the Global Burden of Diseases report, mental illness is considered to be among the top 10 diseases causing disability globally. Social workers practicing in international settings can play a role in policy development, health education and promotion, direct provision of psychosocial interventions, assessment, referral/linkage, and mobilization of self-help, mediation, advocacy, community development, public education and research.

SOWK 440J/571 Global Mental Health: Praxis Course introduces students to an emerging and important global mental health field. Global mental health is an area of study, research, and practice that places a priority on improving mental health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide (Patel, 2012). This elective will introduce students to advanced competencies in global health practice and research, such as the global burden of mental health, social and economic determinants of mental health, the globalization of biomedical psychiatry, global mental health governance, human rights, and equity. Students will discuss practical and ethical challenges in delivering care in low-resource settings, describe tools, and strategies to address the needs of specific vulnerable populations, especially urban refugees in resource limited countries. They will also examine cultural awareness and its importance in caring for a diverse population.

This premier global mental health course provides an opportunity for social workers to gain the necessary knowledge and skills required to work as a mental health practitioner in a global context. This course is located in Kenya to ground the concepts of global mental health in a specific non-western context. Western knowledge and ways of knowing are often privileged and globalized to the Global South. This is often at the expense of Indigenous and local culturally and spiritually appropriate psychosocial and spiritual interventions. Students will be partnered with local mental health organizations to observe and learn from local experts.

This course will be taught by Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim PhD, MSW, RN, an Assistant Professor at UBC’s School of Social Work and an internationally trained scholar and clinician. He has an expertise in the content, lived experience in the area, and a strong network of local human service organizations and professional colleagues to assist in the facilitation of the course content. 

Want to learn more about experiences in SOWK 440J/571? Check out this blog post on past student perspectives, and this video on the 4-day joint lecture program with Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) and a video collaboration between past program participants and one of our past community partners, Green String Network.

International Placement Details

Student enrollment in SOWK 440J/571 requires full participation in:

  • ORICE pre-departure learning sessions from January – April 2024
  • 5 week course: 1 week intensive prior to departure (1st week of May) 4 week course including community-based placement in Nairobi, Kenya during May/early June 2024
  • Orientation and workshops facilitated by ORICE during the placement
  • ORICE re-entry debrief session and final course-work on campus in June/July 2024

Pre-Departure Overview

The pre-departure learning program is designed to prepare you for an international placement. This will include:

  • Pre-departure learning sessions taking place over the academic term leading up to departure led by staff and community development professionals.
  • Creation of a learning and development plan
  • Participant-led events/presentations
  • Facilitated meetings with your placement team to explore learning topics
  • Advance team-building and learning with students from Kenya Medical Training College that students will meet and learn with in Kenya
  • Post-Placement overview

Post-Placement Overview

You will participate in post-placement activities include:

  • Final coursework in June 2024
  • Debrief session in June/July 2024
  • Public engagement presentation related to course-based research in October 2024

More Information

Open to BSW or MSW students registered with the UBC Vancouver School of Social Work. Students who are entering their 4th year in September 2023 are encouraged to take this course, but please note that students who enroll in this course will still be active students in the Spring 2024 term.  Students who have met all graduation requirements and completed this course will be eligible to convocate in the November 2024 ceremonies. A certificate of BSW completion can be provided to graduating students for future employers in the interim until they receive their diploma.

Students in other health professions, such as Nursing and Public Health, are also encouraged to apply. Strong applications from students who are not in a health professional program may also be considered.

Preference will be given to 4th year and Masters level students.

In Kenya, you will live in hostel-style accommodations with modest living conditions.

In addition to its academic requirements, SOWK 440J/571 students must also participate in a number of activities to ensure their preparedness for their international placement.

Program Dates

August 14, 2023Program application is open and will close when full. Applications will be considered in the order they are received
September 25, 2023Application Deadline #1
October 29, 2023Application Deadline #2 (if spaces remain)
November 26, 2023Application Deadline #3
(if spaces remain)
January 14, 2024
Final SOWK application Deadline (if spaces remain)
January 20 – April 12, 2024Orientation and pre-departure learning sessions.
All successful applicants will be expected to be in attendance at all sessions. Sessions include some remote connections with KMTC.
April 29 – May 5, 2024SOWK 440J/571 (Summer Term 1), Course begins with an intensive seminar week prior to departure. (online course with KMTC)
May 10 – 12, 2024Orientation in Nairobi
May 13 – June 7, 20244 week course including community-based attachments in Nairobi, Kenya
June 2024SOWK 440J/571 Final assignments due and post-placement reflection session
Post-placement October 2024Public engagement presentation related to course-based research

**Please note these dates may be adjusted but will be confirmed prior to the offer.

There are program fees, in addition to tuition, for this course. Please note this program is eligible for Arts Research Abroad (ARA) funding which will cover up to 70% of program costs and flights for eligible students. In cases of demonstrated financial need (determined by Enrolment Services), ARA may fund up to 100% of the program costs and flights. The finalized cost per student is yet to be confirmed, but will be within the ranges listed below. A program deposit fee of $685.00 is payable upon acceptance of an offer to secure your spot in the program. The deposit fee will be deducted from the overall balance owing. The prices listed below are in Canadian Dollars (CAD).

Cost    Anticipated Cost with ARA Funding
Program Fee: $3,500-$4,000    Program Fee: $1050 - 1200
Estimated flight cost: $2,000    Estimated flight cost: $600
Program fees do not include the cost of tuition.

*Note: Program fees may be adjusted before the offer. Program costs vary primarily due to cost of living expenses. 

Program cost includes:

  • Pre-departure learning sessions at UBC
  • Room and board
  • Transportation from the airport to your placement site
  • Orientation in host country
  • In-session debrief and workshop part way through your placement
  • Reflection materials
  • Community partner management fee
  • Program management fee

Note: Additional expenses not covered in program costs are the responsibility of the student. Costs not included are airfare, visas, vaccinations, tuition, local transportation while in country, transportation from the site back to the airport at the end of the placement, personal items, and daily incidentals.

Please see the Funding Opportunities section below for information on awards that are available to cover some of the cost of the program.

Funding available for this program:

  • Arts Research Abroad Award (ARA): This course is eligible for Arts Research Abroad (ARA) funding. Arts courses that are designated as ARA courses will provide an award which will cover up to 70% of program costs and flight for eligible students. In cases of demonstrated financial need (determined by Enrolment Services), ARA may fund up to 100% of the program costs and flight.
  • Regional and International Service Learning Award: This $2000 award is open to eligible UBC students participating in ORICE programs that require travel to a host community (eligibility of program will be listed on individual program web-pages). Students from all faculties are eligible.

Note: Students may only hold one award at a given time. Please visit the Funding page here for more information on the awards and eligibility.

  1. Review course and program details (please contact  with any questions you may have).
  2. Next, fill out the ORICE international programs application form for this course here or seen in the card below.
  3. Successful applicants will be enrolled into a Canvas course for ORICE Immersion Programs to continue the selection process through an individual interview and a group interview. You will be contacted regarding this process.
  4. After interviews, you will be notified of a decision; successful candidates will be sent an offer letter with further details on the program and detailed instructions on how to accept. You will have approximately one week after receiving the offer letter to accept. Your selection into the program includes meeting eligibility requirements, as well as your initial application and your performance in the interviews.
  5. Students who have been selected to participate in SOWK 440J/571 will be registered for the course.

Note: Although there are rounds of multiple deadlines scheduled, applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and we can not guarantee the number of spots remaining in the following round of deadlines. We encourage interested students to apply as soon as possible.

Please review ORICE's statement of commitment to EDI and anti-racism here.

For more information about the program and the course, please contact ORICE at