Integrating mental health into primary health care is widely promoted for a host of reasons, chief among which is providing a more comprehensive health care service. However, only a few countries have adequate mental health resources to undertake the integration of mental health into primary health care in a uniform manner, with wide variations among countries. This paper examines the extent to which two low-income countries (Ghana and Uganda) and one middle-income country (South Africa) are managing the integration of mental health into primary health care using the recommendations of the WHO World Health Report, 2001. Primary and secondary data sources from a situational analysis of mental health services in the three countries were analysed. The findings indicate that significant challenges remain in integrating mental health care into primary health care. Poor or uneven implementation of policy, inadequate access to essential drugs and lack of mental health specialists are some of the reasons advanced. Aside from better human resource planning for mental health, integration may be advanced by the development of packages of care which adopt a task-shifting approach suited to a country’s needs.
International Review of Psychiatry (2010) 22 (6) 599–610 [doi:10.3109/09540261.2010.536152]