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Research Review

Counselors Address Mental Health Crisis in Developing Countries

Worldwide, more than 450 million people live with unmet mental health care needs. In low-income countries, there are often only one or two mental health professionals, as compared with 200 times more doctors and nurses for the same population in high-income countries.

The Mental Health Facilitators (MHF) program, launched in 2008, is a first step toward addressing this need. MHF was formed by the National Board of Certified Counselor International in response to a request by the World Health Organization to help people in developing countries who have never had access to mental health care.

The program sends a team of counselors to towns and villages in other countries to train local people how to recognize mental health issues and make references for professional care. The curriculum for the program was developed by Wake Forest University Professor of Counseling Donna Henderson and Scott Hinkle, PhD, a clinical training coordinator with the National Board of Certified Counselor International.

“By making the curriculum simple to understand and retain, the participants we train have an easier time sharing their knowledge when they return to their communities,” says Henderson. “The curriculum has tremendous potential for mental health outreach.”

Some of those trained will then become trainers themselves, increasing the impact even more, so that never-before-served populations have access to community-based mental health care services. Organizations in numerous countries, including Afghanistan, Botswana, China, Indonesia, India, Romania, Singapore, Tanzania, and Turkey, have expressed interest in the training.

Those who attended received 30 hours of training on mental health issues, as well as listening and communication skills to help them offer support and better determine if an individual may require professional mental health care. When they return to their communities, they may face mental health issues that arise from everyday stress, as well as crises, disasters, trauma, or violence. The facilitators are not mental health workers but are first responders to help with problem solving and to make referrals.

— Source: Wake Forest University