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Int J Ment Health Syst. 2011 Aug 5;5(1):17. doi: 10.1186/1752-4458-5-17.

A mental health training program for community health workers in India: impact on knowledge and attitudes.

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Nossal Institute for Global Health, University of Melbourne, Level 4, Alan Gilbert Building, 161 Barry St, Carlton 3010, Australia.



Unmet needs for mental health treatment in low income countries are pervasive. If mental health is to be effectively integrated into primary health care in low income countries like India then grass-roots workers need to acquire relevant knowledge and skills to be able to recognise, refer and support people experiencing mental disorders in their own communities. This study aims to provide a mental health training intervention to community health workers in Bangalore Rural District, Karnataka, India, and to evaluate the impact of this training on mental health literacy.


A pre-test post-test study design was undertaken with assessment of mental health literacy at three time points; baseline, completion of the training, and three month follow-up. Mental health literacy was assessed using the interviewer-administered Mental Health Literacy Survey. The training intervention was a four day course based on a facilitator's manual developed specifically for community health workers in India.


70 community health workers from Doddaballapur, Bangalore Rural District were recuited for the study. The training course improved participants' ability to recognize a mental disorder in a vignette, and reduced participants' faith in unhelpful and potentially harmful pharmacological interventions. There was evidence of a minor reduction in stigmatizing attitudes, and it was unclear if the training resulted in a change in participants' faith in recovery following treatment.


The findings from this study indicate that the training course demonstrated potential to be an effective way to improve some aspects of mental health literacy, and highlights strategies for strengthening the training course.

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