Integration of Mental Health into Primary Health Care in a rural district in Uganda
Objective: Mental health has been identified as a major priority in the Ugandan Health Sector Strategic Plan. Efforts are currently underway to integrate mental health services into the Primary Health Care system. In this study, we report aspects of the integration of mental health into primary health care in one rural district in Uganda. Method: Qualitative methods were used for data collection. Semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with various stakeholders within the ministry of health as well as line ministries. Data analysis was done using Nvivo 7, specifically adopting framework analysis approach. Results: Attempts to offer organized mental health services were found to be present in only a few health facilities. The district had only a single mental health nurse, and very few General Health Workers adequately equipped with the knowledge and skills to provide mental health services. The vertical referral system was not being followed as planned and there was no evidence of any organized community interventions for those with mental disorders. The mental health nurse and a few PHC nurses however expressed interest and commitment to providing services for persons with mental illness, despite the challenges. Conclusion: Although mental health
is expected to be integrated into primary health care, mental health services in this district have not yet achieved the expected level of integration. This implies that this important policy requirement has not yet been effectively realized in this rural district, which could be the case in many other districts of a similar status. There is thus a need to direct more efforts towards realization of this important policy requirement.
Key words: Mental health; Primary Health Care; Integration; Uganda