Emergence and structuring of support groups for people living with mental health problems in Togo, Madagascar, Lebanon and South Sudan

Based on an ethnographic type baseline study conducted on four support groups for people living with mental health problems, evolving in various contexts (prisons, hospitals, refugee camps and mental health centres), this study highlights the fact that strategies supporting the emergence and structuring of mental health support groups in developing countries should rest on four essential questions:
-which partner(s) should be given priority in the project and which partner institutions should
be selected – traditional, religious, or national?
– question relationships between the members of a support group and their institutions, especially in terms of power.
– need to take into account the subjective challenge associated with the mental health problem,
especially through institutional reflection pertaining to “the extent to which support groups should be re-empowered, how best to support the empowerment process, both at the level of the group and of the individuals (personalities) constituting the group?”
– need to provide a strong knowledge management policy, first and foremost focused on the collective ownership of a mental health policy, shared by all actors involved.

These various questions enabled us to make five suggestions, all aimed at supporting a steering strategy that should result in the emergence and the structuring of a group that would be supportive, empowering, and participative: set up an ethics and strategic committee; integrate a knowledge management policy that speaks to the implementation of the project’s mental health policy; identify, train and supervise ethics proponents; understand how the target population manages its intra and interpersonal relationships (including with institutions); gather all national, religious and traditional actors in the project’s intervention area.

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