Readiness to deliver person‐focused care in a fragile situation: The case of Mental Health Services in Lebanon
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Noubani, A., Diaconu, K., Loffreda, G. & Saleh, S. (2021) Readiness to deliver person‐focused care in a fragile situation: The case of Mental Health Services in Lebanon. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 15:21.
Background: Evidence suggests wide variability in the provision of mental healthcare across countries. Countries experiencing fragility related risks suffer from a high burden of mental-ill health and additionally have limited capacity to scale up mental health services given financial and human resource shortages. Integration of mental health services into routine primary care is one potential strategy for enhancing service availability, however little is known about the experiences of currently active health care providers involved in mental health and psychosocial support service (MHPSS) provision at primary care level. This study aims to determine how healthcare providers offering MHPSS services at primary care levels in Lebanon perceive mental health and the health system’s ability to address the rising mental ill-health burden with a view to identify opportunities for strengthening MHPSS service implementation geared towards integrated person focused care model.Methods: A qualitative study design was adopted including 15 semi-structured interviews and 2 participatory group model-building workshops with health care providers (HCPs) involved in mental healthcare delivery at primary care level. Participants were recruited from two contrasting fragility contexts (Beirut and Beqaa). During workshops, causal loop diagrams depicting shared understandings of factors leading to stress and mental ill health, associated health seeking behaviors, and challenges and barriers within the health system were elicited. This research is part of a larger study focused on understanding the dynamics shaping mental health perceptions and health seeking behaviours among community members residing in Lebanon.Results: Findings are organized around a causal loop diagram depicting three central dynamics as described by workshop participants. First, participants linked fnancial constraints at household levels and the inability to secure one’s livelihood with contextual socio-political stressors, principally referring to integration challenges between host communities and Syrian refugees. In a second dynamic, participants linked exposure to war, confict and displacement to the occurrence of traumatic events and high levels of distress as well as tense family and community relations. Finally, participants described a third dynamic linking cultural norms and patriarchal systems to exposure to violence and intergenerational trauma among Lebanon’s populations. When describing help-seeking pathways, participants noted the strong infuence of social stigma within both the community and among health professionals; the latter was noted to negatively afect patient-provider relationships. Participants additionally spoke of difculties in the delivery of mental health services and linked this to the design of the health system itself, noting the current system being geared towards patient centered care, which focuses on the patient’s experiences with a disease only, rather than person focused care where providers and patients acknowledge broader structural and social infuences on health and work together to reach appropriate decisions for tackling health and other social needs. Barriers to delivery of person focused care include the lack of coherent mental health information systems, limited human capacity to deliver MHPSS services among primary health care staf and inadequate service integration and coordination among the many providers of mental health services in our study contexts. Critically however, provider accounts demonstrate readiness and willingness of health professionals to engage with integrated person focused care models of care.Conclusions: Mental ill health is a major public health problem with implications for individual health and wellbeing; in a fragile context such as Lebanon, the burden of mental ill health is expected to rise and this presents substantive challenges for the existing health system. Concrete multi-sectoral eforts and investments are required to (1) reduce stigma and improve public perceptions surrounding mental ill health and associated needs for care seeking and (2) promote the implementation of integrated person focused care for addressing mental health.