India has few mental health professionals to treat the large number of people suffering from mental disorders. Rural areas are particularly disadvantaged due to lack of trained health workers. Ways to improve care could be by training village health workers in basic mental health care, and by using innovative methods of service delivery. The ongoing Systematic Medical Appraisal, Referral and Treatment Mental Health Programme will assess the acceptability, feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of a task-shifting mobile-based intervention using mixed methods, in rural Andhra Pradesh, India.
The key components of the study are an anti-stigma campaign followed by a mobile-based mental health services intervention. The study will be done across two sites in rural areas, with intervention periods of 1 year and 3 months, respectively. The programme uses a mobile-based clinical decision support tool to be used by non-physician health workers and primary care physicians to screen, diagnose and manage individuals suffering from depression, suicidal risk and emotional stress. The key aim of the study will be to assess any changes in mental health services use among those screened positive following the intervention. A number of other outcomes will also be assessed using mixed methods, specifically focussed on reduction of stigma, increase in mental health awareness and other process indicators.
This project addresses a number of objectives as outlined in the Mental Health Action Plan of World Health Organization and India's National Mental Health Programme and Policy. If successful, the next phase will involve design and conduct of a cluster randomised controlled trial.
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