The what, why and how of health and development

Responding to mental health in Afghanistan

With high levels of mental health problems in Afghanistan but very few resources to cope with them, an international health charity have launched a mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment programme in the country.

In February 2011, International Medical Corps started an 18 month programme in the capital Kabul to train and support psychiatric staff, improve administration and facilities, and provide high quality care.

In 2009, the Afghan health authorities estimated that 66% of the population have experienced mental health problems.

Despite this there is only one psychiatric hospital in the whole of the country, with only 100 beds. Talking to AljazeeraEnglish in October last year, doctors at the hospital say that because of the turbulent political and social situations in the country, more people are likely to experience problems.

“Most of these problems are because of war and instability,” said Dr Nasir Ahmed.

“Our political and social problems add to this. Many people suffer from violent trauma and depression. Afghan people have these kinds of problems more than most people.”

On World Mental Health day in 2010, the World Health Organisation took the opportunity to highlight the problem facing so many Afghans.

According to WHO, improvement to mental health services does not require sophisticated and expensive technology. Instead, what is required is an increasing the capacity of the primary health care system to respond to mental health problems.

“Placing the ability to diagnose and treat mental health patients into the primary health care system will significantly increase the number of people who can access care,” said Peter Graaff, WHO Representative to Afghanistan.

“WHO stands ready to provide technical support to Afghan health authorities to implement and further develop basic mental health services.”

Aljazeera English report
WHO – Afghanistan country profile

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