Understanding the mix of services for mental health care in urban DR Congo: a qualitative descriptive study

EM Mayoyo, B Criel, A Sow, Yves Coppieters, Faustin Chenge

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


Mental health workers (MHWs) are exposed to conflicts of competence daily when performing tasks related to the provision of mental health services. This may be linked to a lack of understanding of their tasks as caregivers and providers. Furthermore, in most low-income settings, it is unclear how the available services are organized and coordinated to provide mental health care. To understand the above, this study aimed to identify the current mix of services for mental health care in the urban Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

A qualitative descriptive study was carried out in Lubumbashi from February to April 2021. We conducted 7 focus group discussions (FGDs) with 74 key informants (family members, primary care physicians, etc.) and 13 in-depth interviews (IDIs) with key informants (traditional healers, psychiatrists, etc.). We performed a qualitative content analysis, guided by an analytical framework, that led to the development of a comprehensive inventory of MHWs from the household level to specialized facilities, exploring their tasks in care delivery, identifying existing services, and defining their current organization.

Analysis of transcripts from the FGDs and IDIs showed that traditional healers and family caregivers are the leading providers in Lubumbashi. The exploration of the tasks performed by MHWs revealed that lifestyle, traditional therapies, psychotherapy, and medication are the main types of care offered/advised to patients. Active informal caregivers do not currently provide care corresponding to their competencies. The rare mental health specialists available do not presently recognize the tasks of primary care providers and informal caregivers in care delivery, and their contribution is considered marginal. We identified five types of services: informal services, traditional therapy services, social services, primary care services, and psychiatric services. Analyses pointed out an inversion of the ideal mix of these services.

Our findings show a suboptimal mix of services for mental health and point to a clear lack of collaboration between MHWs. There is an urgent need to clearly define the tasks of MHWs, build the capacity of nonspecialists, shift mental health-related tasks to them, and raise awareness about collaborative care approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1206
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Informal services
  • Mental health workers
  • Mix of services
  • Primary care services
  • Psychiatric services
  • Qualitative descriptive study
  • Social services
  • Traditional therapy services
  • Urban


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