PREVALENCE AND COURSE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS IN PRIMARY HEALTH CARE PATIENTS
Winefield, H., Turnbull, D., Taplin, J., Clifford, J., University of Adelaide, Marley, J., University of Newcastle, Australia
There is new awareness in Australia that most mental health disorders go untreated, and that in the majority of cases where sufferers do receive any intervention, it is from their family physician rather than from a mental health professional. Accordingly new policies are being explored which might improve the skills and knowledge of general practitioners to respond effectively including to the "minor" mental disorders. These include the high-prevalence chronic conditions of anxiety and depression. To learn more we screened a representative sample of patients (N = 466) at a busy suburban general practice. Eighty participants (17.2%) expressed a wish to discuss their psychological state with somebody from the practice staff, and these patients had reported higher anxiety, depression and stress. Distress scores were fed back into their patient records, and followup interviews were conducted 6 months later to determine the outcomes and to re-assess their psychological state. Those who had discussed their problems with a member of the practice staff had shown more improvement in their psychological state than those who had not, but the reasons for this are not clear. The histories of the most initially distressed participants were reviewed and the findings will be discussed from the perspective of what contributions clinical psychologists may best make to integrated primary mental health care.