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Introduction to Mental Health Primary Care

Published on Oct 01, 2013 and last reviewed on May 12, 2022   -  4 min read


Are you aware of the inclusion of mental health services in primary health care? Read the article below to learn about it.

Introduction to Mental Health Primary Care

What Is Mental Health Primary Care?

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:

  1. Introduction to mental health.

  2. Depression.

  3. Anxiety disorder.

  4. Psychosis.

  5. Substance-related problems.

Why Is There a Need for Mental Health Primary Care?

The reasons for its implementation are:

  1. Mental health problems are widespread. They are present in every community.

  2. There is a stigma associated with mental illness, and because of that, people do not seek professional help.

  3. There is not enough awareness about mental illness. Usually, mental health problems are ascribed to witchcraft, possession, sorcery, weakness of mind, etc.

  4. There are professionals available to treat these issues. So, to make use of the available sources, it is necessary to increase awareness.

How to Recognize Mental Health Problems?

There are five basic criteria or important steps through which a person should approach a patient with mental health problems. These are:

  1. The risk of suicide should be assessed.

  2. Listening to the patient without any preformed notions (non-judgmentally).

  3. Giving information about the mental illness and reassuring the patient and the family members.

  4. Encouraging the patient to take appropriate professional help like from psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric social workers, psychiatric nurses, etc.

  5. Giving information about self-help strategies and encouraging the patient and his family members to use them.

What Are the Advantages of the Mental Health Primary Care Program?

Integration of mental health services into primary healthcare has the following advantages:

What Are the Challenges of the Mental Health Primary Care Program?

The challenges that might need to be addressed in the integration of mental health into primary healthcare services are as follows:

  1. Inclusion into primary healthcare services requires investment in the training of professionals and other staff members.

  2. The primary healthcare workers can show reluctance in dealing with patients affected by mental issues.

  3. The overburdening of professionals with work may happen as the duties will increase, so more workers need to be included in the team.

  4. The primary care workers may lack proper supervision and availability, so they should be supervised appropriately, and their availability should be maintained.

  5. 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.

  6. 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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