Mental health policy and system preparedness to respond to COVID-19 and other health emergencies: a case study of four African countries


As a result of a long colonial history and subsequent developmental and economic challenges, many African countries have struggled to put in place adequate policies, systems, and associated infrastructures to address the health and social needs of their citizens. With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening human lives and livelihoods, concerns are raised about the preparedness and readiness of health policies and systems in African countries to deal with these kinds of health calamities. More particularly, questions can be asked about the preparedness or even existence of mental health policies and associated systems to help individuals and communities in Africa to deal with the consequences of COVID-19 and other health emergencies. In this article, we analyse the existing mental health policies of four African countries paying attention to the capacity of these legislative provisions to enable psychology professionals to deal with psychosocial problems brought about by COVID-19. We use Walt and Gilson’s Policy Triangle Framework to frame our analysis of the existing mental health policies. In line with this conceptual framework, we review the role played by the different factors in shaping and influencing these mental health policies. We further explore the challenges and opportunities associated with existing legislation and mental health policies. We also reflect on the reports obtained from each of the four countries about the role that psychologists are playing to deal with the associated psychosocial problems. Based on our policy analysis and country reports, we highlight strengths and gaps in these policies and give recommendations on how mental health policies in these countries can be strengthened to respond to COVID-19 and future health emergencies.




Africa, COVID-19, health emergencies, health systems, mental health systems