Our ProgramThe Peter C. Alderman Program for Global Mental Health is the mental health program of HealthRight and is dedicated to strengthening mental health, recovery and resilience for communities devastated by violence and armed conflict. Our teams implement transformative solutions providing every individual the opportunity to rebuild, recover, and thrive. Through direct implementation and partners, HealthRight’s Peter C. Alderman Program for Global Mental Health is currently operating at 18 sites across Uganda and Burundi. We are working to extend program reach across all HealthRight programs and countries to address the mental health needs of marginalized populations.
Our ApproachThe vision of the Peter C. Alderman Program for Global Mental Health is to innovate, implement, and scale transformative mental health and psychosocial care. Our program is grounded in rigorous research and evidence and based on the principle that the best innovations come from local communities. That is why our program is delivered by local health workers and caregivers and operates through partnership with governments, with the goal of community-based lay practitioners providing the majority of care.
MENTAL HEALTH IS A GLOBAL CRISIS
According to the World Health Organization, more people in Sub-Saharan Africa suffer from mental health concerns than from HIV/AIDS and TB combined. Mental health concerns are a major factor in the ability of communities to rebound from violence and conflict. Mental health and its consequences often cause a downward spiral. People affected by conflict may have survived the unspeakable horrors of war, but may be left unable to work, care for herself or tend to her family because of psychological distress. In the words of Elizabeth Alderman, “If people don’t care whether they live or die, they won’t put down their bed nets or walk to get potable water. They can’t follow complicated anti-retroviral therapy regimens. And they can’t work or take care of their children.”
The long-term, cascading mental health impacts of war
Long after conflict has ended, many people affected by conflict continue to suffer nightmares, profound sadness and worries, anger, hostility, and social isolation, putting them at high risk for poor health and life outcomes, such as low rates of school completion, joblessness, and poor economic self-sufficiency. Young men with high levels of psychological distress can turn to alcohol and substance abuse and gender-based violence. Beyond the toll on human lives, post-conflict economic recovery, public health initiatives, and peace building are also severely compromised against this background.
The Treatment Gap
Treatment options for mental health concerns are scarce in post-conflict countries, where fewer than 10% of people in need have access to mental health care. According to the WHO, in low- and middle-income countries there is on average one psychiatrist to serve 200,000 or more people, and few mid-level mental health professionals.; in low- and middle-income countries that even have a mental health budget, it accounts for less than 1% of the total health care budget. In the countries where the Peter C. Alderman Global Mental Health Program works, there is on average less than one psychiatrist to treat one million people.
- Maternal Mental Health Program
In Uganda and globally, high rates of depression, anxiety and other common mental illnesses put pregnancies at risk for complications and young mothers at risk for suicide. Mental health concerns carry risk for pre-term birth, low birth weight, malnutrition, disease, and missed immunizations – and suboptimal child development. Depressed women are less likely to breastfeed: a child who is breastfed is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-breastfed child. Breastfeeding drastically reduces deaths from acute respiratory infection and diarrhea – two major child killers.
The Peter C. Alderman Program for Global Mental Health is implementing a ground-breaking project since 2015 to strengthen mental health among pregnant women and their children. The project is focused in two districts, both post-conflict areas and one also a refugee resettlement area.
By using a step-by-step approach involving community health workers, specialized clinicians are freed up to deal with the most difficult cases and bring recovery to more and more patients. The project uses the simplest, lowest-cost solution first, determines if it has worked, and then offers more treatment if required. The project was developed by engaging in community consultations to determine local needs and responding with evidence-based solutions, in this case, a first round of basic couples education and information and Group Interpersonal Therapy.