This blog post was written by Mauricio Toyama, Francisco Diez-Canseco and J. Jaime Miranda.
Mental illness is one of the leading causes of ill-health worldwide, with one in four people estimated to be affected at some point throughout their life . In Peru, neuropsychiatric disorders are thought to affect one in five people.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) acknowledges the importance of dealing with mental illness, with the aim to improve mental health and wellbeing included in SDG3. Whilst this is a positive step towards raising the profile of mental illness on the global agenda, at the local level there remains a need to improve the detection of patients at high risk of mental illness and to encourage these individuals to seek specialised care where needed. Financial and human resource constraints are some of the key limitations to dealing with mental health in low resource settings. However, technological advances can help to bridge this gap.
The Allillanchu Project aimed to integrate a technology-based mental health screening programme into routine practice of primary health care providers in Lima, Peru to improve the early detection of mental illness and encourage patients to seek specialised care . One of the Project’s components used was short message service (SMS), which was developed through a design and validation stage. In this way, the SMS message design was informed by patients with mental health disorders as to the challenges they face in seeking mental health care and their perceptions of the benefits or consequences of seeking specialised care.
A final set of five SMS messages were developed which aimed to encourage patients to seek specialised mental health care and provided information about how to access these services. The SMS messages were very well received by participants, which highlights the importance of designing such strategies based on patient perspectives on mental health care.
The final set of SMS messages complement a tablet-based screening test for depression as part of the Allillanchu Project. Together these strategies aim to improve timely detection of mental health issues and to aid in the referral of patients to specialised care.
We hope that, through the use of these mobile health strategies, patients suffering from mental illness will be able to more easily access the help they need. We highlight the importance of patient-centered design of these services for successful uptake of these interventions. Importantly, we believe that this approach to SMS design could be applied to other low-resource settings to facilitate referrals for other chronic disease outcomes.
Read the full article on the SMS design and validation here: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/global-health-epidemiology-and-genomics/article/design-and-content-validation-of-a-set-of-sms-to-promote-seeking-of-specialized-mental-health-care-within-the-allillanchu-project/1AED6E22EA103FE99BCBB65674C4B7E7
The Allillanchu Project was funded by the Grand Challenges Canada Global Mental Health initiative, under the grant agreement GMH 0335-04.
1. World Health Organization. Mental disorders affect one in four people. 2001. [Accessed: 24 January 2018]; Available from: http://www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/.
2. Diez-Canseco F, Toyama M, Ipince A, Perez-Leon S, Cavero V, Araya R, Miranda JJ. Integration of a technology-based mental health screening into routine practices of primary health care services in Peru: The Allillanchu Project. J Med Internet Res (forthcoming). doi:10.2196/jmir.9208