What we do

Most people go to a church, social worker, or medical clinic when they are struggling, but these workers don't always know what to do. Training church and community workers prepares them with an understanding of mental health, disorders, grief, and trauma along with basic counseling skills. This helps more people get the help they need, when they need it.

The World Health Organization created the Optimal Mix for Mental Health Services as a framework for delivery of mental health services in developing nations. This diagram shows the framework.

The most basic level of care is self care. At this level, individuals manage their own stress, relationships, and they navigate the ups and downs of life within their own personal support systems.

The second level is informal community care. Informal service providers are people who provide some service to the public but are not mental health or health care professionals: religious leaders, community leaders, social workers, teachers, traditional healers, police, fire force, and military. Most of the people we train work at this level.

The WHO Optimal Mix of Mental Health Services
The WHO Optimal Mix of Mental Health Services

The next level of care is primary health care. These are doctors, nurses, and others in the health care system who can be trained to provide mental health services. Awareness of mental health and mental disorders and training in the general health care system helps make mental health services accessible to more people through established medical clinics.

The higher levels (where they are available) provide more specialized treatment. Many nations only have mental health care available at these more specialized levels. This leaves a gap between the need for care and the necessary services.

This is where we focus our efforts.

The majority of people needing mental health services can be helped in the bottom three levels (self-care, informal care, and mental health care within the primary health care system).

Most people can be helped through counseling. Even short-term interventions can have a great positive impact.

Beyond these, services require higher levels of training and more resources. But even for people needing higher levels of care, having trained informal providers around can reduce stress, stigma, and consequences of a mental disorder.

Equipping the church

We love to train pastors, because they are often the first ones called in a crisis. Think about the kinds of situations pastors respond to - death or illness in the family, marriage problems, behavior issues with children, natural disasters, aging parents – all complex issues with implications for mental health.

Pastor Waly Sarr shares what he believes mental health training will do for the church and for the people of Senegal. He was one of 90 participants in the mental health training program in Dakar, Senegal. The program was a function of the Mercy Ships Mental Health Program, with Tributaries International collaborating.

Trained mental health professionals tell us the training is helpful for them, too. It's practical, easy to understand, and easy to implement. It encourages cooperation between the different levels of care. And, importantly, it reduces the fear, stigma, and rejection faced by people who have mental disorders.

One psychologist told us, "You've taken this gold from heaven, and you've made it accessible to us."

Close Menu