Closing mental-illness gap in Vietnam

January 29, 2014 by Dixon Tam

A Simon Fraser University researcher is going to Vietnam to study how to address the shortage of accessible and adequate services for people with mental disorders like depression and anxiety.

"This lack of services means that many people go untreated and suffer unnecessarily. Research has shown that providing in primary care can work, but there are a lot of factors that have to be understood in order to plan the best possible interventions," says Jill Murphy, a PhD candidate with SFU Health Sciences.

"My research looks at health workers in primary care as the first point of contact that people make when they are seeking help for their illness. Understanding the challenges and opportunities to integrating mental-health services in primary care from the point of view of health workers can help us to plan interventions that are tailored to the needs of the people delivering the services."

Mental health has generally been given less attention and funding than other health issues, even in countries like Canada, despite the fact that studies show mental illness will affect one in five Canadians.

One reason is that a lot of stigma surrounds mental illness. In a global context, health priorities in low- and middle-income countries in the past 15 years are largely driven by the United Nations' millennium development goals.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

These goals focus on crucial health issues like maternal and child health, and infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, but unfortunately mental health is not reflected in these goals. Murphy says it's been left out of health policy and funding agendas and should be made a priority.

The Vancouver resident is in the process of applying for an overseas work permit and hopes to leave for Hanoi this spring.

"I'm interested in issues such as how health workers understand common mental disorders themselves, the extent to which health workers stigmatize people with , how the high demands of their work might make them resistant to introducing new skills and practice, and how policy might influence the everyday work of ," Murphy says.

"While this project is specific to Vietnam, the framework used to study the issue will be applicable to other countries that are trying to improve the availability of services in primary care."

Murphy's research will complement a Grand Challenges Canada project led by SFU Health Sciences professor Elliot Goldner and Dr. Vu Cong Nguyen with the Institute of Population, Health and Development in Hanoi. The pilot study looks at the feasibility of implementing a large-scale trial to introduce training for workers in Vietnam to provide services for common .

Explore further: Integrating mental health care: New series

Related Stories

Integrating mental health care: New series

April 30, 2013

The first article in a landmark series to help health care workers and providers, donors, and decision makers understand the importance of including mental health care in global health programs is being published in this ...

Integrating mental health care into HIV care

May 21, 2013

The integration of mental health interventions into HIV prevention and treatment platforms can reduce the opportunity costs of care and improve treatment outcomes, argues a new Policy Forum article published in this week's ...

Depression and mental health services usage

September 30, 2013

More than half the people in Ontario who reported they had major depression did not use physician-based mental health services in the following year, a new study has found.

Recommended for you

In analyzing a scene, we make the easiest judgments first

September 3, 2015

Psychology researchers who have hypothesized that we classify scenery by following some order of cognitive priorities may have been overlooking something simpler. New evidence suggests that the fastest categorizations our ...

Forensic examiners pass the face matching test

September 1, 2015

The first study to test the skills of FBI agents and other law enforcers who have been trained in facial recognition has provided a reassuring result - they perform better than the average person or even computers on this ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.