This policy brief was based on published research by Kakuma R, Minas H,
van Ginneken N, Dal Poz M, Desiraju K, Morris J, Saxena S, Scheffler R.
Human resources for mental health care: current situation and strategies
for action. Lancet (2011) 378:1654-1663.
The overwhelming shortage of human resources for management and delivery
of essential mental health care, particularly in low- and middle-income
countries (LMICs), is well recognized. The current status, the human
resource needs, cost to eliminate the shortage, and evidence on
effective service delivery models are less understood.
- A review of the current state of human resources for mental health,
needs, and strategies for action, was conducted.
- Mental health care can be delivered effectively in primary care and
community settings. Non-specialist health professionals such as family
physicians, nurses, social workers and occupational therapists with
appropriate training and adequate supervision have been shown to be
able to detect, diagnose, treat and monitor individuals with mental
disorders and reduce caregiver burden. Lay health workers, affected
individuals and caregivers with psycho-education and brief training
have also demonstrated their ability to detect and intervene earlier,
improved treatment compliance, better understand the illness and cope
- Human resources for mental health (HRMH) in LMICs face serious
shortages that are likely to worsen unless Ministries invest
substantially and implement effective HRMH strategies.
- The specific composition of the mental health human resources will
vary across settings according to varying population needs, mental
health system structures and available resources.
- Mental health specialists continue to play essential roles in service
delivery and training of non-specialist workers.
- Effective leadership and management of human resources for mental
health will be essential in addressing key challenges such as
mobilization of financial resources, recruitment, and retention, and
equitable distribution of human resources.
The human resource challenges to scale up mental health services are
complex, and a systemic and multisectoral approach such as WHO's Human
Resources for Health Action Framework is essential to make sustainable
Kakuma, R.; Minas, H.; van Ginneken, N.; Dal Poz, M.R.; Desiraju, K.; Morris, J.E.; Saxena, S.; Sheffler, R.M. PRIME Policy Brief 3. Human resources for mental health care: current situation and strategies for action. PRIME, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa (2013) 4 pp.