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The Swedish support to Bosnia Herzegovina: rebuilding mental health services after the war

Lagerkvist, Bengt; Mehic-Basara, Nermana; Ceric, Ismet; Jacobsson, Lars

doi: 10.1097/WTF.0000000000000008

In the aftermath of the war in Bosnia Herzegovina, a task group of Swedish experts organised and supported training of community psychiatry and social work as part of the mental health reform. Among the basic principles of the programme were a close cooperation with the Ministry of Health, personal continuity, exchange of knowledge and long term engagement. With the support of the programme, community mental health centres were created and staffed with a team consisting of: a psychiatrist, four nurses, a psychologist and a social worker. They catered, on average, for 65,000 people of all ages and saw 25–30 patients a day. Of these patients, 75% had psychiatric problems. Among the trained personnel, a major attitude shift occurred in favour of community psychiatry. As a result of the training, informal networks between local professionals were established. An evaluation, four years after the project ended, found that the community mental health centres were the major providers of psychiatric services in the region.

Bengt Lagerkvist MD, PhD, is a neuropaediatrician and associate professor at Umea University, Sweden. He was co-ordinator of the SweBiH project. email:

Nermana Mehic-Basara, MD, PhD, is a neuropsychiatrist, head of the Public Institute for Alcoholism and Substance Abuse in Sarajevo, in Bosnia Herzegovina. She was the main local coordinator of the SweBiH project.

Ismet Ceric, MD, PhD, is professor emeritus of psychiatry and was head of the psychiatric clinic University Hospital Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina at the time of the project and served as local supervisor and facilitator.

Lars Jacobsson, MD, PhD, is professor emeritus of psychiatry Umea University, Sweden. He was the project leader of the SweBiH project.

© 2013 War Trauma Foundation, Diemen, The Netherlands