Vientiane, Lao PDR – 24 August 2023, the Department of Healthcare and Rehabilitation, Ministry of Health, together with USAID Okard, led the hand-over of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) awareness materials, aimed at improving mental health awareness and literacy among community health center staff in eight targeted districts in Xieng Khouang and Savannakhet as well as Provincial and Central hospitals as well as Centre for Health Statistics and Information.
Mental health disorders are often neglected or stigmatized in various communities, despite being a crucial element of overall wellbeing. Marginalized populations, including those living in poverty, with chronic conditions, physical disabilities, and their caregivers, are disproportionately affected by mental health issues. In Lao PDR, where specialized mental health services are limited, the involvement and effort of community health providers and leaders are essential to address the lack of resources.
The materials, which include posters and videos covering a range of topics related to mental health, were developed by USAID Okard in close consultation with the Department of Healthcare and Rehabilitation, Ministry of Health, and mental health specialists from Mahosot Hospital and 103 Hospital. They are designed to equip health professionals, particularly those in community health centers, with the necessary resources to further promote mental health literacy and understanding of common mental health problems in their communities. This, in turn, will improve help-seeking behaviors of community members regarding MHPSS when needed.
Dr. Sommana Lattana, Deputy Director of the Department of Healthcare and Rehabilitation, Ministry of Health, remarked, “As much as physical health is important, mental health is equally crucial. Mental health problems may not be visible, but they pose a silent threat to our overall well-being. We must be aware of our mental health condition, recognize the warning signs, and seek help when needed. These materials will be essential tools for everyone in the community to learn more about common mental health disorders and how to access help.”
The materials will be displayed in healthcare facilities and promoted on social media to reach wider audiences. They will also integrate with the work of the Ministry of Health in advocating for MHPSS. This is a significant step forward in promoting mental health awareness and literacy in these areas. By increasing knowledge and awareness of mental health, we can help break down stigmas and promote positive attitudes towards seeking help and treatment.
USAID Okard, funded by USAID and implemented by World Education, Inc., in partnership with Humanity & Inclusion, improves access to quality rehabilitation and economic opportunities for persons with disabilities and supports the design and implementation of disabilities inclusive policies.