Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has stricken mental health worldwide. Marginalized populations in low- and middle-income countries have been the most affected, as they were already experiencing barriers to accessing mental health care prior to the pandemic and are unequally exposed to the stressors associated with the health emergency, such as economic ravages or increased risk of complicated disease outcomes.
Objective: The aim of this paper is to describe a comprehensive initiative resulting from a public-civil partnership to address the increased burden of mental health illness associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in rural Chiapas, Mexico.
Methods: To address the emerging health needs of the general population and health professionals resulting from the pandemic, Compañeros En Salud (CES), a non-profit civil society organization based in Chiapas, implemented a comprehensive strategy to compensate for the shortage of mental health services in the region in collaboration with the Chiapas Ministry of Health. The strategy included three components: capacity building in mental health care delivery, psychosocial support to the general population, and provision of mental health care to CES collaborating staff. In this capacity building article, implementers from CES and the government share descriptive information on the specific interventions carried out and their beneficiaries, as well as a critical discussion of the strategy followed.
Results: Through this strategy, we have been successful in filling the gaps in the public health system to ensure that CES-served populations and CES-collaborating health professionals have access to mental health care. However, further studies to quantify the impact of this intervention in alleviating the burden of mental health illnesses associated with the pandemic are needed.
Conclusions: The current situation represents an opportunity to reimagine global mental health. Only through the promotion of community-based initiatives and the development of integrated approaches will we ensure the well-being of marginalized populations.
Keywords: Psychosocial support; capacity building; community mental health; low- and middle-income countries; task-sharing.