An innovative approach to integrating mental health into health systems: strengthening activities in Somaliland

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Somaliland, in the Horn of Africa, declared independence from Somalia in 1991, but is yet to be internationally recognised as a sovereign state. The region has a significantly weak health sector, with poor service provision and scarce human resources for mental health, despite huge mental health need. Therefore, mental health care has been incorporated into an international health link (long term, mutually beneficial partnerships) between Kings College London and institutions in Somaliland, known as KTSP (Kings THET Somaliland Partnership). In addition to strengthening mental health skills and competencies within Somaliland, in the absence of any practising psychiatrists or specialist mental health nurses in the public sector, KTSP has promoted selected junior doctors (interns) to be mental health representatives in order to actively integrate mental health care into the existing health systems. This paper describes, in detail, the recruitment, roles, strengths and pitfalls of this strategy.

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