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World Psychiatry. 2008 Feb;7(1):54-7.

Community-based mental health care in Africa: mental health workers' views.

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1Department of Psychiatry, Addis Ababa University, P.O. Box 19241, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


The World Health Organization (WHO) has for long proposed the development of community-based mental health services worldwide. However, the progress toward community mental health care in most African countries is still hampered by a lack of resources, with specialist psychiatric care essentially based in large, centrally located mental hospitals. It is again time to reconsider the direction of mental health care in Africa. Based on a small inquiry to a number of experienced mental health professionals in sub-Saharan Africa, we discuss what a community concept of mental health care might mean in Africa. There is a general agreement that mental health services should be integrated in primary health care. A critical issue for success of this model is perceived to be provision of appropriate supervision and continuing education for primary care workers. The importance of collaboration between modern medicine and traditional healers is stressed and the paper ends in a plea for WHO to take the initiative and develop mental health services according to the special needs and the socio-cultural conditions prevailing in sub-Saharan Africa.


Africa; community mental health care; continuing education; primary care


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