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Lay Counselors Linked to Mental-Health Benefit

Intervention in India addresses depression and anxiety, features team approach with lay workers

TUESDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- An intervention featuring lay counselors appears to have provided benefits in addressing common mental disorders in patients in public primary care facilities in India, according to research published online Dec. 14 in The Lancet.

Vikram Patel, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues analyzed data from 2,429 adults who screened positive for depression and anxiety disorders, referred to as the common mental disorders. Patients were randomized to receive an intervention featuring a trained lay health counselor, along with antidepressants from a primary care physician and referral to a clinical specialist as needed, or enhanced usual care as a control.

The researchers found that patients with confirmed common mental disorders in the intervention group were more likely to have recovered at six months (65 versus 52.9 percent). The intervention appeared to have an effect on people attending public facilities but not private facilities.

"In conclusion, results from the MANAS trial indicate the effectiveness of a lay health counselor-led collaborative stepped-care intervention for common mental disorders in public primary health care facility attenders in India. This evidence should be used to improve services for common mental disorders in settings for which mental health professionals are scarce," the authors write.

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