Are you aware of the inclusion of mental health services in primary health care? Read the article below to learn about it.
In a developing nation like India, access to primary health care resources is still inferior. Therefore, expert mental health services are challenging to provide. Promotion of awareness then becomes increasingly necessary in such situations. However, the reason behind giving first aid is to provide initial treatment before the patient can receive adequate medical attention at higher centers. The same is true for first aid in mental health problems. Before receiving expert treatment from professionals, mental health first aid is given to a person with some mental illness or mental health crisis. Mental health first aid teaches people to recognize common mental illness symptoms, provide initial help, and take that person for additional professional assistance.
Mental health first aid or primary care is an awareness program. The 'mental health primary care' includes a training program of two days that enhances the basic knowledge and includes awareness lectures about the following most common mental health problems:
The reasons for its implementation are:
Mental health problems are widespread. They are present in every community.
There is a stigma associated with mental illness, and because of that, people do not seek professional help.
There is not enough awareness about mental illness. Usually, mental health problems are ascribed to witchcraft, possession, sorcery, weakness of mind, etc.
There are professionals available to treat these issues. So, to make use of the available sources, it is necessary to increase awareness.
There are five basic criteria or important steps through which a person should approach a patient with mental health problems. These are:
The risk of suicide should be assessed.
Listening to the patient without any preformed notions (non-judgmentally).
Giving information about the mental illness and reassuring the patient and the family members.
Encouraging the patient to take appropriate professional help like from psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric social workers, psychiatric nurses, etc.
Giving information about self-help strategies and encouraging the patient and his family members to use them.
Integration of mental health services into primary healthcare has the following advantages:
It will decrease stigma for people with mental issues and their families as primary healthcare services are generally meant for all health conditions and not specific ones, so it is more accessible to the patients and their families.
It will help in improving the prognosis of the treatment. Mental health issues come along with many critical health problems such as cancer, AIDS, diabetes, tuberculosis, etc. When primary healthcare workers are trained in providing some mental health services, they can help provide better treatment outcomes by attending to the physical health needs of patients with mental issues and the mental health needs of individuals affected by infectious or chronic diseases.
It will improve the prevention and diagnosis of mental disorders. Training primary healthcare workers with mental health skills lead to a better approach to patient care and enhances the diagnosis and prevention of mental disorders.
It will provide refined treatment and follow-up of mental disorders. Even if the patient is diagnosed with a mental disorder, the accessibility to the right treatment is always a problem, especially for those living in remote areas. By including mental health services in primary healthcare, the patients will be able to receive the appropriate mental healthcare and treatment because of the following reasons:
Better physical accessibility. Having basic mental health treatment facilities at primary healthcare centers allows more patients to seek treatment and follow-ups. It also saves time spent traveling to far-off places.
Less financial burden. When consulting in higher centers which are situated in cities, the indirect expenditures also get included, such as transportation, etc. Integrating mental health services into primary healthcare reduces the cost to a great extent.
Better acceptability of the services and better rapport are created between the patient and the healthcare worker. There is easier communication due to reduced language and cultural barriers and better knowledge of the patient's personality and family background.
It will reduce the chronicity of the problem and will improve social integration among patients and their families. When people seek treatment away from their homes, it disturbs their normal life, pertaining to employment and the family. It keeps the individuals away from their loved ones and creates more burden on their families and the professionals. The mental services in primary healthcare will reduce the burden on individuals, their families, and society as a whole. The economic household productivity and social integration will remain intact, resulting in better and faster recovery.
It provides human rights protection. For example, basic mental treatment at primary healthcare centers can prevent people from being admitted into psychiatric institutions, which are often associated with human rights violations.
It will boost human resource capacity for mental health services. Incorporating mental health services into primary healthcare can help in addressing human resource shortages to cater to mental health services.
The challenges that might need to be addressed in the integration of mental health into primary healthcare services are as follows:
Inclusion into primary healthcare services requires investment in the training of professionals and other staff members.
The primary healthcare workers can show reluctance in dealing with patients affected by mental issues.
The overburdening of professionals with work may happen as the duties will increase, so more workers need to be included in the team.
The primary care workers may lack proper supervision and availability, so they should be supervised appropriately, and their availability should be maintained.
There may also be an absence of a good referral system between primary care and higher levels which can severely decrease the effectiveness of mental healthcare services delivered at the primary centers.
The key issues with human resource management in primary healthcare like suitable working conditions, adequate payment, needful resources, and support to carry out the demanding work.
Integration of mental health services into the primary healthcare system is essential for a plethora of reasons. Still, it comes with a myriad of obstacles that need to be overcome correctly and at the earliest for the successful implementation and running of this program.
Last reviewed at:
12 May 2022 - 4 min read
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