Filling the treatment gap: developing a task sharing counselling intervention for perinatal depression in Khayelitsha, South Africa

Journal Article


Journal Title

BMC Psychiatry

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

BioMed Central


University of Cape Town

Background: Perinatal depression is a major public health issue especially in low income settings in South Africa, where there is a shortage of mental health professionals. New psychological interventions delivered by non-specialists are needed to fill the treatment gap. This paper describes the process of developing a manual based task sharing counselling intervention for perinatal depression in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 26 participants, including service providers and service users at a clinic in Khayelitsha in order to explore the feasibility, acceptability and content of a task sharing counselling intervention. The interviews were recorded, translated and transcribed. Themes were identified using the framework analysis approach and were coded and analysed using NVivo v10. After the semi-structured interviews, a workshop was conducted with mental health experts on evidence-based psychological interventions for depression, together with a document review of counselling manuals for community health workers in South Africa. Results: The findings indicate that a task sharing counselling intervention was acceptable and feasible for depressed women in Khayelitsha, under the following conditions: (1) respondents preferred a female counsellor and felt that clinic based individual sessions should be provided at least once a month by an experienced Xhosa speaking counsellor from the community; and (2) the content of a counselling intervention should include psycho-education on cognitive and behavioural effects of depression, how to cope with interpersonal problems, and financial stressors. Based on these conditions, the review of manuals and expert consultation, key components of the counselling intervention were identified as: psycho-education, problem solving, healthy thinking and behaviour activation. These were included in the final counselling manual. Conclusion: The development of task sharing counselling interventions for perinatal depression should be informed by the views and needs of local service users and service providers. The study illustrates the manner in which these views can be incorporated for the development of evidence-based psychological interventions, within a task sharing framework in low and middle-income countries.