Image depicting mental health support
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NCD Academy reprioritises mental health in a new course for primary care givers

20th July 2021

NCD Academy launches its newest course, Mental Health Care: Increasing Awareness, Erasing Stigmas, a no-cost, continuing education initiative for front-line health workers, including clinicians, nurses, and community health workers. 

Mental health is too often side-lined in favour of managing physical illnesses. But poor mental health is a common contributor to disease and death around the world, and life expectancy of a person with severe mental illness can be up to 25 years less than their peers with no mental illness. Most of these deaths are the result of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes and hypertension - as well as suicide.[1]

With rates of stress, anxiety and depression significantly amplified because of COVID-19[2] the need for a more integrated and proactive approach to mental wellbeing is more important than ever.

Led by the American College of Cardiology (ACC), NCD Academy courses are designed to support the ongoing learning and development of frontline healthworkers in key areas of noncommunicable disease (NCD) prevention and care.

Primary care providers are gatekeepers of professional mental health support for patients and communities. Yet many hesitate to play a more active role in mental health service delivery, citing it as too difficult or intimidating to treat.

The new course on mental health – developed with a team of international experts from the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) – aims to build the confidence of primary health workers to screen for mental illness in their patients, intervene before symptoms become acute, and refer those who need it to specialist care.

The course will introduce easy-to-use mental health screening tools, modelling compassionate conversational techniques, and explaining treatment options commonly at the general practitioners’ disposal. Current lessons feature case-based learning in various mental health domains including depression and mood disorders, substance use, and, lastly, trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

As a global partner, NCD Alliance works alongside others, including the World Heart Federation and Viatris, to maximise the value of the programme to clinicians and the broader NCD community across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). 

Mental health is now the third “Big 5” NCD represented on NCD Academy. A course in cardiovascular disease, helmed by the American College of Cardiology (ACC), and another in cancer care from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) are also available on the NCD Academy app and website. Courses in diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, and non-clinical topics including advocacy and social determinants of health are on the horizon, with others planned to follow next year.

Who is the NCD Academy for?

  • General practitioners and nurses based at community clinics who act as the main source of care for patients seeking medical guidance and treatment in rural and remote areas; 
  • Internists and nurses at hospitals who are tasked with assessing newly-admitted patients and providing non-critical care;
  • Community health workers who support preventive efforts and early detection in underserved communities through health promotion and disease screening.

Join the course here!

NCD Academy course

[1] World Health Organization (WHO) Premature death among people with severe mental disorders: Information Sheet

[2] Czeisler MÉ , Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1049–1057. DOI: icon.