Mental health issues often don’t rate a mention in many policymakers’ priority lists. However, depressions and mental issues could rank among the most serious causes of disabilities worldwide. In less developed countries where people can’t find any therapists, the condition could cause significant suffering among individuals and slow down economic development. In many cases, there is no other option but to train ordinary people into counselors.
Based on a study, reasonably educated people from any scientific background could learn some basic psychotherapy skills and assist those suffering from depression. Governments may need to incorporate these counselors into the existing health system. While this strategy may be a requirement for less developed countries, more developed countries may benefit from this too.
Depression does kill and suicide is one of the likely causes of death, especially among younger individuals. In some developing countries, although maternal mortality could be falling, suicide is still a leading cause of death for specific age groups. Life expectancy of depressed individuals can be significantly shorter compared to the rest of the population.
These people could be trained to perform only specific tasks and it would be like training community midwives. They are not trained to be full-fledged psychiatrists, but they could still manage depressions caused by issues unique to the area. Training sessions can be concluded in just a few days or a few months; depending on the local situation. The supervised learning period could last much longer and this can be achieved through direct contacts with local patients. There are usually certain unique characteristics of mental illness in the area and they can usually be addressed with specific techniques. Newly-trained psychiatrists may not have much theory but they can gain specific skills to help depressed people to recover more quickly.
For example, in one area most of the depressed people could be women who have unhappy marital relationship. In this case, counselors could be trained to deal with this specific problem. If patients are not sleeping well or feeling withdrawn, counselors could immediately examine whether these symptoms are associated with marital issues. They could provide solutions relevant to the area, such as going for a walk in nearby local attractions, get together with neighbors or perform other positive activities. Patients’ mood could improve through repeated sessions and counselors could work with local authorities to address specific social problems that cause much of the mental problems in the area.