There is no health without mental health! Even though mental health and physical health go hand in hand, in reality the focus for most health workers is mainly on physical health. In recent years, there has been growing awareness about the burden of mental health problems, from relatively mild and short-lived states of distress, to more severe clinical disorders and disabilities which can last for long periods. Mental health problems are common, occurring in all societies and in all social classes, and across the life course. They are particularly common in certain groups of people, for example, those attending primary health care facilities, people with chronic physical health problems (e.g. HIV, diabetes), pregnant and postnatal women, and people who have been exposed to conflict or violence. All can benefit from interventions which can be delivered by general health workers equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills and, where possible, supported by mental health specialists.
Mental health is a basic aspect of care for all health workers. It is essential that, just as with physical illnesses, the health worker is well informed about how to detect mental health problems and how to help people recover. It is with this goal in mind that this manual has been written.
Who is the manual for?
This manual has been written to meet the needs of the general health worker. This broad term includes anyone who works in a health care or community setting, and is not specially trained to work with persons with mental health problems. Thus, the manual can be used by the community health worker, the primary care nurse, the midwife, the social worker and the family doctor. This diverse group will have different levels of training and skills. However, they all often have in common a low level of awareness about mental health problems and their treatments.
Where will this manual be most useful?
Given that all societies face similar mental health problems, the manual should be of use anywhere in the world. But the manual has been designed specifically to meet the needs of health workers in low- and middle-income countries and in low-resourced settings of high-income countries. Even though this scope includes nations and societies which are very diverse, there are many features that they share which make this manual applicable to them all.