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Title: Role of General Practitioners in Mental Health Care: An Exploratory Study
Authors: Gujral, Gunjan
Keywords: Centre for Human Ecology
Rajani Konantambigi
School of Social Sciences
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: TISS
Abstract: Mental health problems account for twelve percent of global disease burden and they are treated mainly in primary care by general practitioners (GPs), even though the latter’s ability to detect, diagnose, and treat patients with mental disorders is often considered unsatisfactory. The present study explored the perception and role of GPs in mental health care by conducting semi structured in depth interviews with ten GPs and two psychiatrists in a north Indian city. Cross case analysis of the interviewed data allowed for exploration of the phenomena by triangulating the two prime respondent sets. The analysis showed that the GPs conceptualised mental illness either as abnormality or as disease of the brain and attributed greater importance to environmental factors than genetic factors in causing mental illness. They felt competent and comfortable in treating mild mental illnesses and cases of serious mental illness were referred to the psychiatrists. Other reasons for referral included ineffectiveness of their treatment and the uncooperativeness of the difficult patients. Their preferred line of treatment was pharmacology and they recognised the importance of counselling for the management. The GPs and the psychiatrists held negative viewpoints about each other’s management of patients with mental illness, which was indicated in the form of lack of collaboration between them. The respondents in the study spoke the dire need for counsellors and other mental health professionals in the city and the necessity of increased collaboration between the GPs and psychiatrists and other allied mental health professionals. It also brings forth the importance of continuing education and training of GPs in psychiatry to improve the quality of mental health care.
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