The multiplier role of psychiatrists in low income settings

F. Kigozi* and J. Ssebunnya
Publication date: 
2 June 2014

Mental health care is receiving increased attention in low-income countries with the availability of a wide range

of effective evidence-based treatments for acute and chronic mental disorders amidst scarce resources. Availability of

these treatments and competent human resources enables the use of a variety of interventions at several levels of

care for persons with mental illness and makes it feasible to ensure observance of quality in the treatment approaches

that go beyond institutionalisation. However, unlike developed countries which are endowed with many and relatively

well-paid mental health specialists, low-income countries face a dire shortage of highly trained mental health professionals

in addition to several other challenges. In light of this, there is need to re-assess the role of the few available

psychiatrists, with a shift to new core tasks such as designing mental health care programmes that can be delivered

by non-specialists, building their health system’s capacity for delivering care, including supporting front-line health

workers through support supervision, raising awareness on mental health and patients’ rights in addition to promoting

essential research. This requires a fundamental paradigm shift from the current training for mental health specialists to a

public health oriented approach and providing incentives for community engagement