One in three people with a mental health condition do not receive treatment, study reveals

Patients with mild to moderate mental health conditions could be treated effectively by GP practices, a major new study has revealed.

The finding forms part of a new report published by the University of Cambridge, which looks into the ‘treatment gap’ – the number of people who need treatment and the actual number who receive treatment.

According to the study, which was carried out in Indonesia but is replicable across the rest of the world, a trial found that a large number of patients who require treatment do not get the support they need due to a shortage of specialists.

The researchers said people looking for help are often confronted with long waiting times for mental health appointments, meaning conditions often get worse before they can be addressed.

These combined factors are the biggest contributor to the ‘treatment gap’. According to the latest figures, the median worldwide gap for psychosis is 32 per cent – meaning one in three people with psychosis do not receive treatment.

To combat this, experts have now called for the integration of mental health care into primary care, such as GP practices. While the majority of mental health consultations begin at a GP practice, the continuation of care must often be referred out to a specialist.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Dr Sabrina Anjara, of the University of Cambridge, said: “Mental health care provided by a GP proved to be just as effective for mild to moderate conditions as care by a specialist, such as a clinical psychologist. GPs also helped large proportions of participants go into remission.”

She added: “Not only were GPs able to manage mental health problems, but patients were more likely to return to see them for follow-up treatments. However, GP workload needs to be considered alongside the cost-effectiveness of various options.

“We found follow-up appointments with a clinical psychologist to cost the Indonesian health system less, so the co-location of specialist mental health professionals in primary care may be a more feasible option in the long run.”

 

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