PRIME Policy Brief 3. Human resources for mental health care: current situation and strategies for action

Abstract

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 better.
  • 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 impact.

Citation

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.

PRIME Policy Brief 3. Human resources for mental health care: current situation and strategies for action

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