Screening for common mental disorders in low resource settings: reasons for caution and a way forward

Recognition of high rates of common mental disorders in many resource-constrained contexts has indicated the need for routine screening of patients attending public health facilities. Screening may facilitate entry into community level psychiatric services for those identified as disordered. Yet, screening instruments will need to ensure high specificity so as to minimise expenditures on treating false positives. Task shifting of screening activities to primary health care staff and lay workers in low income settings may hold some population-level advantages, including greater population coverage, more efficient deployment of health care staff, and the reduction of stigma if specific conditions are met.

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