The national health strategy for Ethiopia emphasizes the provision of effective health promotion and disease prevention services at community level. The significant progress in tackling the major communicable diseases, however, can potentially be undermined by the steady rise in chronic physical and mental health problems within Ethiopia, and elsewhere in the developing world.
As deaths from infection decline and people live longer, so their vulnerability to the chronic non-communicable diseases of old age increases. For example, over 50% of the 8 million deaths from cancers every year and over 80% of the 17 million deaths from heart disease and strokes now occur in developing countries. The numbers of deaths and injuries from traffic accidents and violence are also increasing across the world. Mental health conditions are responsible for high levels of mortality and disability, accounting for 8.8% of the deaths and 16.6% of the total burden of disease in low and middle income countries. Mental health is instrumental to overall health and well-being.
Taking these trends into consideration, the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health has included this module on Non-Communicable Diseases, Emergency Care and Mental Health in the education and training of it’s Health Extension Practitioners.
With the launch of the HEAT programme in 2010/2011, rural health extension workers (HEW) in Ethiopia received training in mental health and childhood developmental disorders for the first time. An evaluation of the initial HEAT mental health materials (provided as module book part 2 in the link below) revealed a need for more training in early detection, particularly in children, and specific support in tackling the stigma that often leads to affected individuals being concealed by their families.
In response to this finding, a team of researchers from The Open University and Addis Ababa University, in collaboration with the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health, produced additional training materials that can be used in conjunction with the original HEAT module.
The team produced five short training videos, modelling an HEW interviewing mothers of children with autism or intellectual disability to demonstrate skills in early detection, supportive counselling and problem solving. The videos are produced in Amharic (the official Ethiopian language) – a version with English transcripts and subtitles is also available on this website.
In addition, a ‘Mental Health Pocket Guide’ was produced that reinforces the training provided in the associated HEAT module, and extends training in childhood developmental and mental health problems. The ‘Mental Health Pocket Guide’ will be available on this website in due course in both English and Amharic.
All these materials are free to use or can be adapted to suit the local context. If you download the module, pocket guide or videos, we would very much appreciate hearing from you. Let us know, via email, how you are making use of these materials in your own mental health practice or programme.