Increasing uptake of mental health services through the activities of Self-Help Groups


Gede Foundation started its Community Mental Health and Development Programme in 2016 in the Federal Capital Territory and Nasarawa State. The programme focused on raising awareness about mental health and providing treatment and care at the community level to those with mental illnesses and epilepsy. It has reached 949 people with common mental illnesses such as (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders, and substance dependence) and epilepsy, through the mental health camps with specialists at the rural communities of Mpape amd Mararaba. Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists visit communities through the Primary Healthcare Centres, screen, diagnose and offer treatment as appropriate.

Over the period, self-help groups (including users, careers and community volunteers) have been established in these communities, with the aim to engage with available community networks to address the various barriers for uptake of mental health services including prevention activities. More than 200 members are actively involved in prevention and referral activities within the self-help groups in both communities.

The Foundation has provided series of trainings to the primary healthcare staff and members of the self-help groups to support their activities. This uptake has been made possible with a generous donation from BasicNeeds US. 

These trainings were to set a trend for the self-help groups to be self sufficient and true to the term - “self-help” and to facilitate smooth referral pathways for delivering of mental health services.

The trainings, which fell during the ‘mental health awareness week’, were two-fold and hinged on leadership and advocacy, as well as, referral pathways for those affected by mental illnesses and epilepsy.

The self-help groups meet every last Saturday of the month in their respective communities. They have been doing so since inception, in November 2016. During their meetings, which the Foundation has observed, they discuss various issues such as bringing more awareness about mental health issues to their communities as well as advocating for more care and support towards their cause. They also counsel each other where necessary; refer cases first to the Primary Healthcare Centres for proper care and to the secondary health facilities as needed. They also encourage themselves to be present at meetings, to adhere to medication as prescribed by specialist and support others to do same.

During the meeting, the chief of Mararaba Gurku, Allahyayi Gambo expressed gratitude to the Foundation for not ‘deserting’ the community and continuing to champion the cause despite the obvious stigma attached to it.

Going forward, the Foundation hopes to lend a helping hand to the community with hopes of scaling up the community programme and encourage referrals/adherence to medication. It is hoped that the self-help groups would be empowered to respond to issues that affect their mental wellbeing and also get rooted in interventions that will make them self-sustaining.