Interventions to increase use of services; Mental Health Awareness in Nigeria.

24 oct 2017
Eaton J, Nwefoh E, Okafor G, Onyeonoro U, Nwaubani K, Henderson C

BACKGROUND

Mental health services in Nigeria consist mainly of large government psychiatric hospitals and there are very few mental health professionals to serve the large population of the country. However, more recently, community mental health services, which have been shown to improve access to care and clinical outcomes are beginning to develop in some locations. Despite efforts to promote more accessible services, low levels of knowledge about effective treatment of mental disorders means that even where these services are available, a very small proportion of people utilise these services. Therefore interventions to increase service use are an essential component of health system.

METHODS

This intervention was designed to increase use of a mental health services through the work of community-based Village Health Workers. Fifteen Village Health Workers in each Local Government Area (district) were selected and trained to create mental health awareness in communities. Their function also include identification and referral of persons with mental illness to trained mental health nurses in the clinics. Attendance data prior to and after intervention were collected and compared.

RESULTS

The incident rate for initial period of intervention is five times higher than the baseline rate (95% CI; 3.42-7.56; p < 0.001) though this diminished in the long term, levelling off above initial baseline.

CONCLUSIONS

This study demonstrated that addition of awareness raising using volunteers in communities as part of health programme implementation can increase services use by a population. Mechanisms such as informing populations of the existence of a service which they were previously lacking; explanation of causation of mental illness and achieving community leaders' support for a new service can make investment in services more efficient by increasing attendance.