Community mental health care in South Asia

A huge brain drain has left some of the countries of the region with much fewer psychiatrists. There is also a lack of other mental health professionals, such as clinical psychologists, social workers and more specifically psychiatric nurses. This gives rise to a need to involve community level health workers, teachers, volunteers, key persons in the local community and family members, in the process of identifying persons with mental disorders, making appropriate referrals and providing care and simple psychosocial interventions. This has been successfully done in Sri Lanka, where community support officers, a new cadre of mental health workers, was established in the wake of the tsunami, after it was evident that in most districts the basic primary care services were overwhelmed and could not take on any additional activities 13.

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