Mental healthcare in primary and community-based settings: evidence beyond the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) Intervention Guide

Roxanne C. Keynejad*, Jessica Spagnolo, Graham Thornicroft

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: The WHO's Mental Health Gap Action Programme Intervention Guide (mhGAP-IG) has been widely used in low and middle-income countries. We reviewed literature describing interventions and training programmes beyond the mhGAP-IG, in primary healthcare (PHC) and community-based healthcare (CBH). Design: We searched studies excluded from our updated mhGAP-IG systematic review, and included in other relevant systematic reviews, for evidence and experience of initiatives integrating mental health into PHC and CBH. Our 24 November 2020 mhGAP-IG search encompassed MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, Web of Knowledge, Scopus, CINAHL, LILACS, ScieELO, Cochrane, PubMed databases, 3ie and Google Scholar. Although heterogeneity prevented meta-analysis, we descriptively summarised the evidence-base. Results: Out of 1827 results, we identified 208 relevant records. They described randomised controlled trials of mental health interventions (98 studies, n=55 523 participants), non-randomised studies measuring clinical outcomes (22 studies, n=7405), training outcomes (36 studies, n=12 280) and implementation outcomes (21 studies, n=1090), plus descriptive accounts (18 studies, n=2526), baseline surveys and exploratory studies (6 studies, n=17 093) and commentaries (7 studies). Most (40%) were conducted in the African region, region of the Americas (16%), and South-East Asia (13%). Randomised and non-randomised studies reported improved symptoms, substance use, functioning, parenting and child outcomes. Non-randomised studies reported improved clinical knowledge, confidence and skills following training. Conclusions: The literature beyond the mhGAP-IG is extensive and shares common findings. Future priorities are less-studied regions, interventions for severe mental illness, exploring ways that mhGAP-IG and alternative approaches complement each other in different contexts and scaling-up mental health integration. PROSPERO registration number CRD42017068459.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEvidence-based mental health
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • adult psychiatry
  • anxiety disorders
  • child & adolescent psychiatry
  • depression & mood disorders
  • schizophrenia & psychotic disorders


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