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A hospital participating in Heartland Alliance's International Fikra Timamu program in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Piloting a Trauma-Informed Global Mental Health Program

Survivors of the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo have witnessed and endured unimaginable atrocities. Withstanding two decades of severe trauma, it is estimated that 3.25 million people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The National Mental Program of the Ministry of Health lacks human and technical resources to respond to this critical need, and many survivors cannot cope with or heal from their devastating experiences.

In the country’s South Kivu province, many still experience political or family violence. Thanks to Heartland Alliance International Fikra Timamu (Swahili for “of sound mind”) program, each year some 1,000 individuals receive high-quality mental health services. Toward the CFP goal of supporting community-based health care for people in developing countries, the program trains mental health counselors and medical staff to assess and respond to issues like PTSD and depression, among other psychiatric diagnoses.

Heartland Alliance International not only restores human rights, it engages communities, positioning them at the forefront of change. The organization recruits graduates from Congolese universities and provides them with training and support to care for some of the country’s most vulnerable populations. The Fikra Timamu program represents Kivu’s only integrated, provincial-level mental health program.

As Fikra Timamu builds on its success, Heartland Alliance International is piloting a project to integrate mental health services at all levels of the region’s healthcare system, including service to patients discharged from hospitals. The project will provide trauma-informed interventions for PTSD and depression at Kivu’s hospital and healthcare center, expand an assessment of the full-scale mental health needs in Kivu, and improve the quality of referrals by training paraprofessionals and health center staff on how to identify and respond to mental health issues. This project will serve as a community-based mental health delivery model for other locations to launch, measure, investigate, and document post-treatment results.