Moving Away From the Scarcity Fallacy: Three Strategies to Reduce Mental Health Treatment Gap in LMICs

The mental health treatment gap, defined as the difference between the number of people who have mental disorders and those who can access appropriate treatment, is estimated to be as high as 85% in low-and-middle income countries (LMICs), compared to only 40% in high-income countries (HICs)^1.
Treatment gap
The mental health treatment gap is only 40% in high‐income countries (HICs)
This study explores three strategies to reduce this mental health treatment gap
18 - 22
Peers as young as 18 to 22 years can provide evidence‐based intervention in schools

The Challenge

There's a significant mental health treatment gap in low‐ and middle‐income countries (LMICs). This gap refers to the difference between the number of people who have mental disorders and those who can access appropriate treatment. This treatment gap is a major global health priority that needs to be addressed.

The Solution

Contrary to popular belief, the solution doesn't lie in replicating the high-income countries' (HICs) model of expert caregivers. Instead, LMICs should focus on utilizing their existing human resources and infrastructure innovatively to provide mental health services.

The Study

The study explores the feasibility of three strategies to minimize the mental health treatment gap. These strategies include utilizing existing resources like families, individuals with lived experience, community health volunteers, school teachers, counselors, and healthcare workers at community health service centers to provide mental health services.

The Procedure

The procedure involves training these resources to recognize symptoms of mental disorders, offer first aid psychosocial support, and provide referrals for continued support. The World Health Organization (WHO)’s mhGAP Intervention Guide (mhGAP‐IG) can be used to guide this training process.

The Results

The results show that these strategies can potentially deliver affordable, available, accessible, and evidence‐based mental health services. It can help reduce the treatment gap to levels seen in HICs using the currently available resources.

In Conclusion

It's time to rethink strategies and prioritize innovative and context-appropriate models to reduce the mental health treatment gap in LMICs. This approach will help us utilize existing resources more effectively while new resources continue to be developed.

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