Scaling up of mental health and trauma support among war affected communities in northern Uganda: lessons learned

In 2008, the local nongovernmental organisation TPO Uganda and the Uganda Ministry of Health began a project aimed of improving the availability of mental health services in three districts in Northern Uganda. The project consisted of: 1) training of general health workers in the primary health care system in mental health; 2) strengthening the capacity of the specialised mental health workers to deliver and supervise mental health outreach services; and 3) increasing the capacity of community members to respond effectively to mental health and psychosocial needs of people within their communities. The project provided assistance to ‘patient support groups’ that then provided support to patients with mental disorders.

At the end of the 22 month project, the capacities of health workers and Village Health Teams to provide mental health services were strengthened. Major gaps, that still need to be addressed, were attrition of government health workers and a lack of drugs. Lessons learnt also include: the importance of coordination and joint planning between nongovernmental organisations and the government; the importance of support supervision; the important role of village health team members in community mobilisation and sensitisation; and the roles of patient support groups in complementing medical/clinical activities.

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Baingana, Florence; Mangen, Patrick Onyango