Senior Research Fellow


Division: Institute for Global Health and Development

Tel: 0131 474 0000

Dr Rebecca Horn (PhD, BSc) is a Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for Global Health and Development. She is also a full member of the Institute for Global Health and Development Research Centre.

Rebecca Horn is a psychologist, with a background in forensic psychology. Early in her career she conducted applied research with police forces, probation services and the prison service, and worked for the Prison Service as a forensic psychologist. In 2003 she left the UK to work with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Kakuma Refugee Camp, northern Kenya, where she spent the next three and a half years managing four psychosocial programmes in the camp. In 2007 she worked for the Witness and Victims Section of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in Freetown, initially conducting a research project for the SCSL looking at the impact on witnesses of testifying in an international war crimes tribunal, and subsequently as the psychologist for the Witness and Victims Section.

She joined IGHD at QMU in February 2008, after being awarded an Economic and Social Research Council Fellowship to develop and write up three research projects related to her work in Kakuma refugee camp, and in Kitgum (Northern Uganda). Since the end of that project she has maintained her role as a researcher with IGHD, alongside working on a consultancy basis both as a practitioner and researcher in humanitarian settings including Bangladesh, the occupied Palestinian territories, Kenya, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, Uganda and Ethiopia.  Since August 2018 she has been a member of the Research Unit on Health in Fragility (RUHF) which is located within IGHD.  In this role, she takes the lead on the part of the RUHF’s work which aims to strengthen supports for those affected by mental health issues in Sierra Leone.

Her research is broadly related to psychosocial wellbeing in areas affected by conflict, displacement or disaster.  Her applied work for humanitarian organisations includes assessments and evaluations.  As a practitioner, her work has included managing psychosocial programmes in refugee camps, and supporting organisations to integrate community-based psychosocial approaches into their programmes.  Capacity building, both for organisations and those affected by displacement or disaster, is also a large part of her work.

As well as being a Senior Research Fellow with IGHD, Rebecca is a core member of the Act Church of Sweden/ Act Alliance Psychosocial Roster, with particular responsibility for building the community-based psychosocial capacity of ACT Alliance organisations.  She is also a member of the editorial board of the journal ‘Intervention: Journal of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Conflict Affected Areas’.

I conduct applied research with a focus on psychosocial wellbeing.  My research aims to contribute to improved policy and practice, and is usually commissioned by organisations working in humanitarian settings, such as the IRC, Mercy Corps, World Bank, IMC and UNICEF.  I use both qualitative and quantitative methods, and have led exploratory studies, needs assessments and evaluations, as well as conducting academic research designed to contribute to the field of mental health and psychosocial support in emergencies.

Recent research has included studies of intimate partner violence in refugee camps (IRC) and a study of the effectiveness of Psychological First Aid in West Africa.  I am working with the RUHF to study explanatory models of distress in Sierra Leone, with the aim of developing a locally appropriate measure of mental health which will be used to assess mental health needs across the country.


Active research interests

Psychosocial wellbeing

Gender based violence (particularly domestic violence) in humanitarian contexts

Psychosocial and GBV Programming with displaced populations/ in humanitarian contexts

Child protection in displaced populations (refugee camps and urban refugee settings)

Development of locally appropriate measures of psychosocial wellbeing

Community based psychosocial support/ child protection/ GBV interventions in humanitarian settings

Explanatory models of distress and local understandings of distress


Research Methods

Participatory activities with groups

Interview (in-depth, key informant)

Structured interviews/ questionnaires

Strengthening Evidence for the Scaling of Psychosocial First Aid (PFA) in Humanitarian Settings

Psychological first Aid (PFA) provides a mechanism to address mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) needs of acutely distressed people at scale in major humanitarian emergencies. This study will look at whether PFA enables stronger capacity to provide effective mental health and psychosocial support to those experiencing humanitarian crises and will not only gather evidence related to PFA in the specific context of West Africa and the Ebola crisis but also establish – through strong inter-agency engagement and regional consultation – a basis for wider, systematic, and rigorous evaluation of PFA impact.

This research project is funded by Elrha’s Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) Programme. The R2HC programme is funded equally by the Wellcome Trust and DFID, with Elrha overseeing the programme’s execution and management.


NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Health in Situations of Fragility at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

In collaboration with the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, and COMAHS, Sierra Leone, this project is developing an understanding and the tools to address the relationships between health services and communities, focussing on mental health and non-communicable diseases. Rebecca is leading on the mental health aspect of the project's work in Sierra Leone.

Rebecca occasionally contributes to teaching on psychosocial issues and research methods. She has given guest lectures on gender and conflict; on the assessment of psychosocial wellbeing; and on conducting applied research in conflict and post-conflict settings.