Direct Relief, but for mental health
July 6, 2013 1:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find charitable organizations which basically do what organizations like Direct Relief and MSF/Doctors Without Borders do (direct, critical medical equipment and services,) but for mental health conditions specifically.

I'm finding a lot that do policy research, advocacy, and so forth, but I'm looking for something more along the lines of actually running psychiatric hospitals and clinics, providing "mental health first aid" courses for primary care providers/educators/police, distributing antipsychotics, etc.

Looking through the list of accredited psychology-related NGOs at the UN was less helpful than I'd been hoping for - I'm hoping someone at MetaFilter actually knows of a specific group that does this sort of "on the ground" work.

Totally thrilled to see local groups as well as international NGO types. Religious charities are OK too; a more narrowly-focused version of the Missionaries of Charity would be great. Region is irrelevant; I've seen horrifying stories about psychiatric treatment availability and conditions on every continent other than Antarctica, so.

Similarly, I don't have at this point a strong preference for groups providing crisis response versus long-term services. However, I do want to focus on services for people with chronic or severe mental illness, not just on "psychosocial support" after a disaster. So: yes to a group that sends psychiatrists (on an short-term basis) to help maintain treatment in a disaster for evacuated mental hospital patients or people who've been separated from all their medication and support in the community, but no to a group that sends psychiatrists to do quick evaluation and intervention for PTSD in a giant refugee camp.

In an ideal world, the charity I find will specialize in providing immediate alternatives and/or solutions to the craptastic institutional settings I keep reading about.

The Missionaries of Charity actually do include the mentally ill in their services, but I couldn't find anything indicating they run any one specifically psychiatric institution.
posted by SMPA to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This list (scroll down to the linked organizations) of Volunteer Suggestions for Mental Health Workers might be a decent starting place.

(I'm also not sure if you're aware that Doctors Without Borders does provide mental health care. Are you looking for mental-health-only organizations? Because a lot of mental health workers in the US can't prescribe medication, which is something often critical for patients with severe mental illness, I think there's going to be more overlap with medical organizations than you might expect, since MDs are usually the ones prescribing the medications.)
posted by jaguar at 1:48 PM on July 6, 2013

You may find that, on a more local level, mental health workers are often part of a formal or informal network coordinated by local governmental community mental health organizations. They are called on in case of an "event" of some sort to help triage and provide direct services to victims, survivors, etc.
posted by HuronBob at 2:03 PM on July 6, 2013

Does it have to be charitable? I live in a country were the services you describe are provided as part of the spectrum of free healthcare so no Charities need provide it. So, in my community I can call a crisis line and speak to a therapist or to an intake worker who will direct me to long term resources, they will also send a social worker out to my house to talk with me. I can get into a safe bed (residential house with staff for people that feel suicidal) for short term stays. I can go to my ER and see a pdoc who can then give me follow up appointments in the community. There is a clinic in the downtown of my small town that is exclusively for public health, that has a department of RNs, pdocs and social workers that serves both walk-in and booked appointment clients as well as providing groups therapy, yoga, mindfulness training etc for free.

Because we do not have a large population of "on the street" homeless people (as opposed to the larger insecure housing group) my town does not have the mobile teams of RNs that patrol the streets of the larger municipalities and provide health care to a population that has difficulty accessing traditional services (so an OHIP card does not have to be shown for example), the ministry of health/municipal public health provides funding to the agency without requiring the individual documentation that clinics and hospitals require.

As for medication, such as anti-psychotics, the distribution (and prescription) is rather careful due to the possible side effects. As well, medication to inpatients is free (covered by OHIP) but not for outpatients (unless they have benefit coverage through their employer and/or are eligible for Trillium - a generous provincial government funded programme that reduces many drugs to the $2 co-pay fee).
posted by saucysault at 2:56 PM on July 6, 2013

Try googling "trauma teams". I remember on 9/11 a social worker friend was part of such a team at the Boston airport. They provided on the spot mental health emergency assistance and referrals.
posted by mareli at 5:02 PM on July 6, 2013

I'm not sure if Psychology Beyond Borders has enough of the focus on chronic or severe mental illness that you're looking for, but some of the other pieces fit and they might be able to suggest other organizations.
posted by aka burlap at 12:21 PM on July 7, 2013

TPO provides vital mental health care in Cambodia. There are extremely limited and understaffed government mental health services, the rest is patched together by private medical care (either very expensive or barely trained) and NGOs under an umbrella service and it is so vastly not enough. TPO is the only one I know off the top of my head specializing in psychiatric care.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:20 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster:
TPO provides vital mental health care in Cambodia.
This is exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for! Thank you!

More results like this very much welcomed... for what it's worth, what Doctors Without Borders does is exactly what I was referring to when I said "PTSD in a giant refugee camp." And I'm not restricting by region, but I am looking for places with craptastic psychiatric services, which would generally tend to exclude most of Western Europe and I think the overwhelming majority of English-speaking countries.
posted by SMPA at 3:30 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, and also, to clarify - the "distribute antipsychotics" thing was about distributing them to health services providers (the Paraguay story indicates the hospital in question - their only psychiatric hospital period - was so short on medicine they were limiting it to only the most extremely ill.)

That's a big part of what Direct Relief does - bringing in supplies, etc., for existing providers to use - and if they didn't focus almost exclusively on disasters and "basic" healthcare needs, I'd probably not bother asking this question.
posted by SMPA at 4:07 PM on July 9, 2013

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