Global Mental health

Social and psychological suffering are common themes that tie together my engaged scholarship across contexts. Below are some key global mental health articles, including my work with anthropologists as well as global mental health collaborators addressing the integration of mental health care into primary health care in diverse settings.

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Acceptability and feasibility of using non-specialist health workers to deliver mental health care: stakeholder perceptions from the PRIME district sites in Ethiopia, India, Nepal, South Africa, and Uganda

Three-quarters of the global mental health burden exists in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), yet the lack of mental health services in resource-poor settings is striking. Task-sharing (also, task-shifting), where mental health care is provided by non-specialists, has been proposed to improve access to mental health care in LMICs. This multi-site qualitative study investigates the acceptability and feasibility of task-sharing mental health care in LMICs by examining perceptions of primary care service providers (physicians, nurses, and community health workers), community members, and service users in one district in each of the five countries participating in the PRogramme for Improving Mental health carE (PRIME): Ethiopia, India, Nepal, South Africa, and Uganda. Thirty-six focus group discussions and 164 in-depth interviews were conducted at the pre-implementation stage between February and October 2012 with the objective of developing district level plans to integrate mental health care into primary care. Perceptions of the acceptability and feasibility of task-sharing were evaluated first at the district level in each country through open-coding and then at the cross-country level through a secondary analysis of emergent themes. We found that task-sharing mental health services is perceived to be acceptable and feasible in these LMICs as long as key conditions are met: 1) increased numbers of human resources and better access to medications; 2) ongoing structured supportive supervision at the community and primary care-levels; and 3) adequate training and compensation for health workers involved in task-sharing. Taking into account the socio-cultural context is fundamental for identifying local personnel who can assist in detection of mental illness and facilitate treatment and care as well as training, supervision, and service delivery. By recognizing the systemic challenges and sociocultural nuances that may influence task-sharing mental health care, locally-situated interventions could be more easily planned to provide appropriate and acceptable mental health care in LMICs.

How anthropological theory and methods can advance global mental health

Anthropologists have levied a range of concerns about the burgeoning fi eld of global mental health. These critiques encourage reflection about practice. The next step is for anthropologists to consider how their theories and methods can contribute to generation of empirical data to contribute to effective, ethical, and sustainable achievements for mental health worldwide. Therefore, we propose five domains comprising a new agenda for anthropology to engage with global mental health.


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Nurses' perceptions of mental healthcare in primary-care settings in Kenya

Kenya maintains an extraordinary treatment gap for mental health services because the need for and availability of mental health services are extraordinarily misaligned. One way to narrow the treatment gap is task-sharing, where specialists rationally distribute tasks across the health system, with many responsibilities falling upon frontline health workers, including nurses. Yet, little is known about how nurses perceive task-sharing mental health services. This article investigates nurses' perceptions of mental healthcare delivery within primary-care settings in Kenya. We conducted a cross-sectional study of 60 nurses from a public urban (n = 20), private urban (n = 20), and public rural (n = 20) hospitals. Nurses participated in a one-hour interview about their perceptions of mental healthcare delivery. Nurses viewed mental health services as a priority and believed integrating it into a basic package of primary care would protect it from competing health priorities, financial barriers, stigma, and social problems. Many nurses believed that integrating mental healthcare into primary care was acceptable and feasible, but low levels of knowledge of healthcare providers, especially in rural areas, and few specialists, would be barriers. These data underscore the need for task-sharing mental health services into existing primary healthcare in Kenya.