Participant involved in livelihood activities
Mental health in Lao PDR
In Lao PDR, 75% of the population live in rural areas, and around a quarter are classified by the World Bank as living in poverty. Of the people suffering from mental illness in the country approximately only 0.13% has access to mental health treatment and there are only two psychiatrists serving the entire country. There are also only two psychiatric inpatient units in the country with 35 beds available in total; both are located in the main city of Vientiane Capital. The only two outpatient clinics are also located in Vientiane Capital to service the entire population of approximately 6.1 million people. Very few people with mental health issues in Laos are able to access the treatment and support they need.
We began operating in Lao PDR in 2007 and since then over 7,800 people with mental illness or epilepsy, their carers and family members have been through our programme.
Our holistic mental health and development services are delivered through:
BasicNeeds Lao PDR
BasicNeeds Lao PDR, first began its work in Laos in the Vientiane Capital in 2007. Following the success of the pilot project, our work was then expanded outside the capital to the three poorest districts of the Borikhamxay Province in 2010 and then to the Vientiane Province. In 2013, the ‘National Mental Health Strategy’ to be delivered by 2020, was actually drafted by BasicNeeds in collaboration with the WHO country office at the invitation of the Ministry of Health and approved in the same year.
As a key partner in national mental health care delivery, BasicNeeds Lao PDR is seeking to support the implementation of this new strategy to build capacity and expand benefits of community mental health care on a national scale. In order to do this, it collaborates closely with the Ministry of Health, with government hospitals and with other agencies interested in mental health and development.
“The application of the BasicNeeds community mental health and development model suits very well the context of Lao PDR and responds to the demands for poverty reduction. The key challenge is the lack of human resources trained in mental health which means that mental health services are limited only to two general hospitals based in Vientiane Capital and 16 districts of operation.” Chantharavady Choulamany, Programme Manager, BasicNeeds Laos PDR.
Building a mental health workforce in Lao PDR
For a population of approximately 6.1 million people, Lao PDR has only 2 psychiatrists. To address the lack of mental health personnel, the BasicNeeds Lao PDR team headed by Dr. Chantharavady Choulamany, one of the two psychiatrists in the country has been working closely with the Vientiane Province Health Department to train health workers in four districts Vangvieng, Hin Hurp, Phonehong and Toulakhom. With funding from the Royal Norwegian Government, 20 Lao government health staff have been trained in the knowledge and skills to deliver quality mental health care in their respective district hospitals. Following theoretical training, these 20 doctors and nurses underwent practical training, meeting, diagnosing and treating mentally ill patients in their hospitals, mentored by phone and on-site visits from Dr. Choulamany.
Creating livelihoods opportunities for stabilised persons
To complement the training work carried out in Lao PDR, BasicNeeds is currently providing livelihoods opportunities for people stabilising from mental illness. 473 people including people with mental illness, their carers and family members will benefit from this project over the next two years. The main activities include: community consultations in the four districts; training people stabilising from mental illness and epilepsy and their carers in small basic skills; initiating livelihood projects; and setting up self-help groups for mutual support, sharing of experiences, and training in agricultural best practices.
Our impact to date
As of March 2016, 8,152 people including those affected by mental illnesses, their carers and family members have been supported through our programme in Laos.
BasicNeeds Lao PDR
House No. 074, Inpeng Street, Unit 8
Ban Watchan, Chanthaboury District
P.O. Box 3905
Tel no.: +856 20 55527857/ 55428854