From 2007 to 2009 BasicNeeds ran a pilot programme in Colombia with funding from CBM. The programme is now completed and the organisation is no longer active in Colombia. However, this page describes the background and the scope of the work we did.
There are approximately 1,000 Psychiatrists in Colombia for its 41 million population. This figure is far higher than many other developing countries. However, the mental health system is not effective because half of these psychiatrists live in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, and 75% of them are in private practice.
This means that mental health treatment is very difficult to access. This is a particular problem because Colombia has a large amount of mental health problems due to the many years of civil war and the high level of violent crime linked to the drugs trade. For people affected by these issues, the violence has caused many mental health problems.
Approximately 40% of the population of Colombia (16.4 million people) have had a mental illness at some point in their lives. 10% of the population have suffered depression in the last year, compared to only 4-5% for the rest of the world.
The location for the pilot programme was Usaquén, an expansive district in the north of the capital Bogotá. The BasicNeeds Colombia programme was run in partnership with Usaquén Hospital and focused on the capacity building, livelihoods and research modules of the Model for Mental Health and Development.
The capacity building work centred on training workshops in the diagnosis, treatment and socio-economic needs of people with mental disorders. The first of these training workshops, in May 2007, was inaugurated by the Director of Public Policy fromm Colombia's Ministry of Health and was attended by representatives of a broad reach of community sectors, not only psychiatrists, psychologists and occupational workers, but also members of the police force and employees of other grassroots disability organisations. In total, BasicNeeds Colombia trained over 120 people in each of its four training programmes. Participants included professional health staff, teachers and related educational and health workers.
BasicNeeds’ livelihood activities attracted great enthusiasm from mental health service users. The two leading activities were making crafts (bags and diaries) from leather and setting up a food vending kiosk. A leather crafts workshop was held in June 2007 with 80 participants; 50 people with mental illness, 20 family members and 10 community volunteers. The food kiosk acquired a vending licence and became operational in 2008.
BasicNeeds staff conducted research to assess the specific needs of people and families with mental illness in the community and to mobilise them into groups. Research activities consisted of three components:
- Individual interviews with mentally ill people in the Usaquén Day Hospital
- Large group consultations with mentally ill people
- Bi-monthly group consultations with families of adults and children with mental disorders.
In addition, BasicNeeds Colombia advocated for the rights of people with mental illness by building local and international alliances with schools, churches and health advisors in Uruguay, Peru and Argentina.
In all of its work, be it research, policy, capacity building, or livelihoods training, BasicNeeds Colombia emphasised work in groups to increase the power of marginalised citizens through collective ction.
If you are an organisation in Latin America with an interest in community mental health and development initiatives, please contact Steve Fisher.
to donate now...
> > > > > >