Toronto : A community-based mental health care programme can significantly improve the lives of millions of people suffering from mental illness, researchers have found.
The study showed that six months after undergoing the six weekly therapy sessions by Canada-based organisation 'Friendship Bench', participants showed significant change in the severity of their depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
The Friendship Bench is working to help students suffering from depression.
Patients with depression or anxiety who received problem-solving therapy were more than three times less likely to have symptoms of depression after six months, compared to patients who received standard care.
They were also four times less likely to have anxiety symptoms and five times less likely to have suicidal thoughts than the control group after follow-up.
The intervention also improved health outcomes among highly vulnerable individuals who are HIV positive, experienced domestic violence or physical illness.
"In developing countries, nearly 90 per cent of people with mental disorders are unable to access any treatment," said Peter A. Singer, Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada -- an organisation working for global health.
"We need innovations like the Friendship Bench to flip the gap and go from 10 per cent of people receiving treatment, to 90 per cent of people receiving treatment," Singer added.
For the study, published in JAMA, the team involved 573 participants from Zimbabwe, where Friendship Bench is working on a project to make mental health care accessible to the entire African nation.
The practitioners, who are lay health workers known as community "Grandmothers" provided the participants the problem solving therapy with three components -- "opening up the mind, uplifting the individual, and further strengthening".