NPR: Using lay therapists to deal with mental illness in India

Neon Brain

In the global health arena, mental health care is typically considered — or not considered at all, more accurately — as infeasible for poor communities compared to the more pressing disease burdens of physical illness like AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, pneumonia, malnutrition and the like.

But as I’ve written here before, the burden of mental illness in the developing world is massive and many experts are exploring innovative ways to bring mental health care to poor communities.

For example, NPR’s Joanne Silberner reports on the use of lay people doing mental health therapy in India. Silberner’s report is based on a new study in the Lancet that found people suffering from anxiety or depression can be assisted by therapists with minimal training. Says Silberner:

In India, there is only one psychiatrist for every 400,000 people, according to the Indian government. The Lancet study involved about 2,600 people in the state of Goa with common mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression. About half were assigned case managers who had taken a two-month training course in mental health counseling.

For another example, take a look at my post “The most neglected disease in global health” about a pair of local experts training locals to treat PTSD in Iraq, Congo and Cambodia for another example.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.

  • Cgph

    That’s great news! Please see the attached link for another article about the benefits of shifting “medical” tasks/counseling from MDs to peers in India (and beyond).
    Keep up the good reporting!
    Mirriam Rafiq/Center for Global Public Health, UC Berkeley