Community Care Boosts Treatment of Mentally Ill in Poor Countries

    15 April, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

    Mental health experts say less than 10 percent of people with mental sickness in poor countries receive treatment. Researchers found the most successful way to treat these people is to bring health care to them.

    A new study shows that community-based in-home care is an effective method for treating people with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a long-term and often disabling brain disorder. People with schizophrenia suffer a break in the relation between their thoughts, their feelings and their behaviour. They may hear voices that others do not.

    Community Care Boosts Treatment of Mentally Ill in Poor Countries
    FILE - Community health worker Jennifer Pascal (L) makes a house visit to Mary Smith, a former addict who was treated at Boston Healthcare of the Homeless Program's Suboxone clinic and now lives in supportive housing, in Boston, Massachusetts.

    Schizophrenics often withdraw from reality, from family and friends. This means they may not seek out necessary medical treatment.

    The main treatment for schizophrenia is medication, but it must be taken by doctor's orders. And that can cause problems. Often people suffering from mental illness do not remember to take the medication.

    Recently, researchers carried out a long-term study at 3 places in India. They looked at community care for patients in their homes, then the researchers compared it to care received at mental health centers. The study involved almost 300 schizophrenic patients, ages 16 to 60.

    Graham Thornicroft is a professor of community psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London. He led the study. He feels the best way to treat people with mental illness in poor countries is to make care easy to get.

    "So, what we wanted to do in this study is to find out, can we develop a relatively simple and affordable type of treatment that will increase the number of people who get treatment and increase the quality of care," said Thornicroft.

    Mr Thornicroft says trained health care workers visited the homes of 187 schizophrenic patients. These workers gave the patients medication and follow-up care between doctor visits. They told family members about how to care for the loved ones.

    This in-home, community care was combined with visits to mental health centers. The progress of this group was then compared to a group of 95 patients who received care only at mental health centers. Mr Thornicroft says that a year later, the patients who received in-home care experienced major improvements.

    "For example, voices or delusions were less in the community treatment option. Secondly, the levels of disability were lower when people had community care as well as the medical treatment [in clinic] and third, people were more often likely to take their medication if they had the close support of [someone] coming to visit their homes rather than getting no follow-up between the doctors' visits," said Thornicroft.

    The study shows that people who had community care, combined with visits to mental health centers were more connected to reality, had fewer disabilities, and were more likely to take the medications.

    And that's the Health Report. I'm Anna Matteo.