From 2012 to 2016, World Vision Uganda, in partnership with the Uganda Ministry of Health and WHO, implemented a pilot mhGAP project in three districts – Jinja, Kamuli and Kitgum – in the east and north of the country. The project’s goal was to improve the well-being of people affected by mental, neurological and substance use (MNS) disorders by reducing the treatment gap. Working through primary health-care services, access to support and treatment has risen dramatically.
Independent evaluation of the pilot indicates:
- Better community awareness has enabled 91% of people to recognize symptoms of MNS disorder
- Some 67% of people with mental health concerns have sought treatment
- mhGAP trained health workers regularly used mhGAP
- Service users reported increased mental well-being
The key intervention of group interpersonal therapy – psychological treatment recommended by mhGAP – has successfully reduced people’s symptoms of depression, anxiety and alcohol use, and facilitated them moving forward with their lives and livelihoods. The project also resulted in policy change, such as Jinja district increasing its annual mental health budget allocation.
Before the intervention I had a lot of headaches, I could not eat food well, I lost interest in the things I used to like, I used to think of killing myself and my four children in the River Pager … until the village health team member in our community conducted an awareness talk. Interpersonal therapy has saved my life and children! It has made such a big difference in my life; it’s much better than someone giving me money!
Person using mental health services
A short video and personal stories from those who benefited can be viewed at:
The project has demonstrated that integrating mental health services into primary health care is a low-cost, effective approach to ensuring care. Interventions like group interpersonal therapy, formation of active service user groups, stakeholder engagement, anti-stigma campaigns and advocacy for the protection of rights of service users proved important. World Vision, with Uganda’s Ministry of Health and WHO, is now actively seeking support for wider scale up of the programme