Developing interventions to improve detection of depression in primary healthcare settings in rural Ethiopia

Mekdes Demissie, Rahel Birhane, Charlotte Hanlon, Tigist Eshetu, Girmay Medhin, Abebaw Minaye, Kassahun Habtamu, Anthony J. Cleare, Barkot Milkias, Martin Prince, Abebaw Fekadu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background The poor detection of depression in primary healthcare (PHC) in low- and middle-income countries continues to threaten the plan to scale up mental healthcare coverage. Aims To describe the process followed to develop an intervention package to improve detection of depression in PHC settings in rural Ethiopia. Method The study was conducted in Sodo, a rural district in south Ethiopia. The Medical Research Council’s framework for the development of complex interventions was followed. Qualitative interviews, observations of provider–patient communication, intervention development workshops and pre-testing of the screening component of the intervention were conducted to develop the intervention. Results A multicomponent intervention package was developed, which included (a) manual-based training of PHC workers for 10 days, adapted from the World Health Organization’s Mental Health Gap Action Programme Intervention Guide, with emphasis on depression, locally identified depressive symptoms, communication skills, training by people with lived experience and active learning methods; (b) screening for culturally salient manifestations of depression, using a four-item tool; (c) raising awareness among people attending out-patient clinics about depression, using information leaflets and health education; and (d) system-level interventions, such as supportive supervision, use of posters at health facilities and a decision support mobile app. Conclusions This contextualised, multicomponent intervention package may lead to meaningful impact on the detection of depression in PHC in rural Ethiopia and similar settings. The intervention will be pilot tested for feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness before its wider implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere52
JournalBJPsych Open
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2024


  • case identification
  • Depression
  • depression recognition
  • detection of depression
  • intervention


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