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Current coverage of mental healthcare in low- and middle-income countries is very limited, not only in terms of access to services but also in terms of financial protection of individuals in need of care and treatment.
To identify the challenges, opportunities and strategies for more equitable and sustainable mental health financing in six sub-Saharan African and South Asian countries, namely Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda.
In the context of a mental health systems research project (Emerald), a multi-methods approach was implemented consisting of three steps: a quantitative and narrative assessment of each country's disease burden profile, health system and macro-fiscal situation; in-depth interviews with expert stakeholders; and a policy analysis of sustainable financing options.
Key challenges identified for sustainable mental health financing include the low level of funding accorded to mental health services, widespread inequalities in access and poverty, although opportunities exist in the form of new political interest in mental health and ongoing reforms to national insurance schemes. Inclusion of mental health within planned or nascent national health insurance schemes was identified as a key strategy for moving towards more equitable and sustainable mental health financing in all six countries.
Including mental health in ongoing national health insurance reforms represent the most important strategic opportunity in the six participating countries to secure enhanced service provision and financial protection for individuals and households affected by mental disorders and psychosocial disabilities.
Declaration of interest
D.C. is a staff member of the World Health Organization.
Strengthening of mental health systems in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) requires the involvement of appropriately skilled and committed individuals from a range of stakeholder groups. Currently, few evidence-based capacity-building activities and materials are available to enable and sustain comprehensive improvements.
Within the Emerald project, the goal of this study was to evaluate capacity-building activities for three target groups: (a) service users with mental health conditions and their caregivers; (b) policymakers and planners; and (c) mental health researchers.
We developed and tailored three short courses (between 1 and 5 days long). We then implemented and evaluated these short courses on 24 different occasions. We assessed satisfaction among 527 course participants as well as pre–post changes in knowledge in six LMICs (Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda). Changes in research capacity of partner Emerald institutions was also assessed through monitoring of academic outputs of participating researchers and students and via anonymous surveys.
Short courses were associated with high levels of satisfaction and led to improvements in knowledge across target groups. In relation to institutional capacity building, all partner institutions reported improvements in research capacity for most aspects of mental health system strengthening and global mental health, and many of these positive changes were attributed to the Emerald programme. In terms of outputs, eight PhD students submitted a total of 10 papers relating to their PhD work (range 0–4) and were involved in 14 grant applications, of which 43% (n = 6) were successful.
The Emerald project has shown that building capacity of key stakeholders in mental health system strengthening is possible. However, the starting point and appropriate strategies for this may vary across different countries, depending on the local context, needs and resources.
Two prevailing beliefs held by the public (and many professionals) connect mental illness to the criminal justice system: first, a belief that deinstitutionalization has led to criminalization of mental illness, and second, a belief that mentally ill persons are dangerous and likely to commit crimes, especially violent crimes. This chapter reviews the available empirical evidence for these beliefs. Most studies of arrest of persons with mental illness have not controlled for comorbidities, despite existing research that shows that mentally ill persons with character disorders and substance abuse are much more likely to offend and have higher arrest rates than other mentally ill persons. The public's concern about coddling criminals and the subsequent release of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) offenders into the community seems to be unwarranted. Mental health and social welfare systems with severely inadequate resources try to ameliorate the effects of such deleterious social conditions.
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