Answers from Outside of Academia: Revealing Community-Based Rehabilitation in the Global South

A new study reveals the strengths and limitations of community-based mental health initiatives in the Global South.


In a new study, Ana-Maria Butura and colleagues challenge the conventional narrative of the Movement for Global Mental Health by revealing a diverse range of effective and resilient community-based mental health initiatives in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), often overlooked in the literature.

Their study, published in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems, systematically reviews the grey literature on community-based rehabilitation (CBR) for people with psychosocial disabilities in LMICs. This approach uncovers the often-overlooked strengths and resource needs of existing programs in these regions outside of traditional healing methods.

“The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) highlights the need for rehabilitation services and community participation ‘to enable people with disabilities to attain and maintain maximum independence, full physical, mental, social and vocational ability.’ Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) is one such approach, which, along with the broader strategy of Community Based Inclusive Development (CBID), has the potential to shift the provision of support services from a focus on medical rehabilitation to a human rights perspective,” the authors explain.
“These approaches aim to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and their families by equalizing opportunities, enhancing social inclusion, encouraging independent living, and striving for social justice. Importantly, with greater evidence for the practical application of such approaches, there is the possibility of contributing to deinstitutionalization.”

The authors, from King’s College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, along with experts from Nigeria and Germany, delve into the real-world implementation of CBR programs. Their findings paint a more nuanced picture than the usual portrayal of LMICs as devoid of formalized mental health care. They reveal a diverse array of initiatives, highlighting how these communities are actively addressing mental health challenges within the constraints and contexts unique to them.

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