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Int Rev Psychiatry. 2014 Dec;26(6):669-79. doi: 10.3109/09540261.2014.966067.

Integration of mental health into primary healthcare in low-income countries: avoiding medicalization.

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UNHCR Geneva , Switzerland.


Since 2008 the World Health Organization (WHO), through its mental health Gap Action Programme, has attempted to revitalize efforts to integrate mental health into non-specialized (e.g. primary) healthcare. While this has led to renewed interest in this potential method of mental health service delivery, it has also prompted criticism. Some concerns raised are that it would contribute to the medicalization of social and psychological problems, and narrowly focus on primary care without sufficient attention given to strengthening other levels of the healthcare system, notably community-based care and care on district levels. This paper discusses seven elements that may be critical to preventing inadvertently contributing to increasing a narrow biomedical approach to mental healthcare when integrating mental health into non-specialized healthcare: (1) using task shifting approaches within a system of stepped care, (2) ensuring primary mental healthcare also includes brief psychotherapeutic interventions, (3) promote community-based recovery-oriented interventions for people with disabling chronic mental disorders, (4) conceptualizing training as a continuous process of strengthening clinical competencies through supervision, (5) engaging communities as partners in psychosocial interventions, (6) embedding shifts to primary mental healthcare within wider health policy reforms, and (7) promoting inter-sectoral approaches to address social determinants of mental health.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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