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Stigma related to mental health is a major barrier to help-seeking resulting in a large treatment gap in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). This study assessed changes in knowledge, attitude and behaviour, and stigma related to help-seeking among participants exposed to an anti-stigma campaign.
The campaign, using multi-media interventions, was part of the SMART Mental Health Project, conducted for 3 months, across 42 villages in rural Andhra Pradesh, in South India. Mixed-methods evaluation was conducted in two villages using a pre-post design.
A total of 1576 and 2100 participants were interviewed, at pre- and post-intervention phases of the campaign. Knowledge was not increased. Attitudes and behaviours improved significantly (p < 0.01). Stigma related to help-seeking reduced significantly (p < 0.05). Social contact and drama were the most beneficial interventions identified during qualitative interviews.
The results showed that the campaign was beneficial and led to improvement of attitude and behaviours related to mental health and reduction in stigma related to help-seeking. Social contact was the most effective intervention. The study had implications for future research in LMIC.
India has few mental health professionals to treat the large number of people suffering from mental disorders. Rural areas are particularly disadvantaged due to lack of trained health workers. Ways to improve care could be by training village health workers in basic mental health care, and by using innovative methods of service delivery. The ongoing Systematic Medical Appraisal, Referral and Treatment Mental Health Programme will assess the acceptability, feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of a task-shifting mobile-based intervention using mixed methods, in rural Andhra Pradesh, India.
The key components of the study are an anti-stigma campaign followed by a mobile-based mental health services intervention. The study will be done across two sites in rural areas, with intervention periods of 1 year and 3 months, respectively. The programme uses a mobile-based clinical decision support tool to be used by non-physician health workers and primary care physicians to screen, diagnose and manage individuals suffering from depression, suicidal risk and emotional stress. The key aim of the study will be to assess any changes in mental health services use among those screened positive following the intervention. A number of other outcomes will also be assessed using mixed methods, specifically focussed on reduction of stigma, increase in mental health awareness and other process indicators.
This project addresses a number of objectives as outlined in the Mental Health Action Plan of World Health Organization and India's National Mental Health Programme and Policy. If successful, the next phase will involve design and conduct of a cluster randomised controlled trial.