FPD, has since 2019, in partnership with NDoH and all Provincial DoHs with sponsorship from Sanofi been implementing a limited MH system strengthening project focusing on building MH treatment and referral capacity at PHC level. FPD has trained 1120 PHC nurses and doctors in diagnosing and managing non-complex MH issues to improve referrals for complex MH issues to regional and tertiary psychiatric centres. This initial project has continued in 2021 with the additional training of 500 Mental Health practitioners, all the training being conducted virtually in view of the COVID restrictions. The focus in this training was on compliance with the Mental Healthcare Act and the roles and responsibilities of all in the quality care chain to ensure that mental health users are receiving the care they need.
The initial MH project has culminated in a journal publication in the African Primary Healthcare Family Medicine Journal (PHCFM) available at the Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v13i1.2909
During the COVID-19 pandemic FPD soon realised the effect of the lockdown restrictions and concomitant demands on patient care, in the wake of high morbidity and mortality rates on the mental health and well-being of healthcare workers and the general public. Two online courses to build mental resilience were developed within a short period of time; the first focussed on the general public with content embracing the importance of healthy lifestyles, exercise, creative activities and the role of routines during lockdown to keep mentally sane. In the second course the focus was on healthcare workers and how to support them in staying mentally strong and stable – the course provided insights into anxiety and depression and how to overcome them with available helplines and support structures and gave direction should depression and Post-traumatic stress become a reality. Many organisations have supported their employees and healthcare workers by making this course available through sponsorships – this amounted to more than 6000 participants accessing this course.
Our work in Africa
FPD in partnership with Columbia University: FPD has been partnering with Columbia University since May 2017 to implement an NIH/NIMH funded program titled PRIDE SSA - Partnerships in Research to Implement and Disseminate Sustainable and Scalable Evidence Based Practices in sub-Saharan Africa. This program has established a collaborative network of mental health (MH) stakeholders (researchers, teaching faculty, service providers, and policy makers) in five Sub-Saharan countries (Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia). The project builds capacity through implementation research focused on scaling up community mental health care integrated within public health services based on the mhGAP Intervention Guide developed by WHO. PRIDE SSA has to date achieved the following: i) conducted rigorous scale-up research in partnership with policy makers to identify and implement the best task-sharing delivery pathway for sustainable trans-diagnostic community MH services, integrated into the public health system in Mozambique, including deployment of MH screening and treatment applications; ii) trained and supervised over 200 clinic-based mental health care providers to offer Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT-MI) and Safety Planning Interventions ; iii) established a multidisciplinary MH research network in all five countries comprising researchers, faculty, policy makers, and trainers of trainers; iv) provided Policy TA on the use of MH research to inform policy and program development and v) implemented a Trainer of Trainers program in Mozambique to develop MTs.
Creating a mental resilient workforce programme:
The Coronavirus pandemic has had a detrimental impact on the MH of employees. A recent McKinsey & Company global survey showed that 62% of employees consider MH issues to be a top workplace challenge but only 16% indicated that management was providing the required support .
The neglect of MH in the workplace is also wasteful. According to WHO, depression and anxiety costs the global economy $ 11 trillion/annum and a $1 investment in workplace MH progammes translates into $4 in increased productivity. If unaddressed the risk of a negative organizational collective mental health problem developing increases rapidly, therefore; from an organizational perspective, developing a mentally resilient workforce has become a strategic imperative for organizations.
FPD has reflected on its experience of delivering the first Mental Health selfcare course for HCPs at the end of 2020. The demand for the course rapidly exceeded the available sponsorship due to very unprecedented uptake. FPD has a programme to develop a mentally resilient workforce to maintain a high level of productivity within the new normal that is evolving in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The proposed technical approach uses an integrated technology solution to provide an organisation and their employees with customized tools and learning interventions designed to build mental health resilience support programmes across three pillars: