“We do not know how to screen and provide treatment”: A qualitative study of barriers and enablers of implementing perinatal depression health services in Ethiopia

Abel Fekadu Dadi, Emma R. Miller, Telake Azale, Lillian Mwanri

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Background: Qualitative studies evaluating maternal mental health services are lacking in Ethiopia, and the available evidence targets severe mental illnesses in the general population. We conducted a qualitative study to explore barriers to, enablers of, or opportunities for perinatal depression health services implementations in Ethiopia. 

Methods: We conducted a total of 13 face to face interviews with mental and maternal health service administrators from different levels of the Ethiopian healthcare system. We interviewed in Amharic (a local language), transcribed and translated into English, and imported into NVivo. We analysed the translated interviews inductively using thematic framework analysis. 

Results: The study identified: (i) health administrators’ low literacy about perinatal depression as individual level barriers; (ii) community low awareness, health-seeking behaviours and cultural norms about perinatal depression as socio-cultural level barriers; (iii) lack of government capacity, readiness, and priority of screening and managing perinatal depression as organisational level barriers; and (iv) lack of mental health policy, strategies, and healthcare systems as structural level barriers of perinatal mental health implementation in Ethiopia. The introduction of the new Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGap), health professionals’ commitment, and simplicity of screening programs were identified enablers of, or opportunities for, perinatal mental health service implementation. 

Conclusions: This qualitative inquiry identified important barriers and potential opportunities that could be used to address perinatal depression in Ethiopia. Building the capacity of policy makers and planners, strengthening the mental healthcare system and governance should be a priority issue for an effective integration of maternal mental health care with the routine maternal health services in Ethiopia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number41
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

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