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Integrating mental health into primary care for displaced populations: the experience of Mindanao, Philippines

  • 2011/03/07
Type of publication
  • Articles
  • Mueller Y
  • Cristofani S
  • Rodriguez C
  • Malaguiok RT
  • Gil T
  • Grais RF
  • Souza R
  • Mental Health


For more than forty years, episodes of violence in the Mindanao conflict have recurrently led to civilian displacement. In 2008, Medecins Sans Frontieres set up a mental health program integrated into primary health care in Mindanao Region. In this article, we describe a model of mental health care and the characteristics and outcomes of patients attending mental health services.


Psychologists working in mobile clinics assessed patients referred by trained clinicians located at primary level. They provided psychological first aid, brief psychotherapy and referral for severe patients. Patient characteristics and outcomes in terms of Self-Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ20) and Global Assessment of Functioning score (GAF) are described.


Among the 463 adult patients diagnosed with a common mental disorder with at least two visits, median SRQ20 score diminished from 7 to 3 (p < 0.001) and median GAF score increased from 60 to 70 (p < 0.001). Baseline score and score at last assessment were different for both discharged patients and defaulters (p < 0.001).


Brief psychotherapy sessions provided at primary level during emergencies can potentially improve patients' symptoms of distress.