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Br J Gen Pract. 2006 Dec;56(533):924-31.

Young adults' perceptions of GPs as a help source for mental distress: a qualitative study.

Author information

  • 1Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK. lucy.biddle@bristol.ac.uk

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Few young adults with mental disorder seek help from a GP.

AIM:

To explore young adults' perceptions of GPs as a source of help for mental distress.

DESIGN OF STUDY:

Qualitative interviews.

SETTING:

Bristol and surrounding areas, UK.

METHOD:

Males and females aged 16-24 years screened as 'cases' with probable mental disorder (GHQ [General Health Questionnaire]-12 score> or =4) or describing past episodes of mental disorder (n = 23) were sampled purposively according to help-seeking behaviour. Semi-structured interviews explored help-seeking choices. Transcripts were analysed using thematic, constant comparison and case study analysis.

RESULTS:

Most young adults did not value or recognise GPs as a source of help for mental disorder or distress. They thought that GPs deal exclusively with physical illness, lack training in mental health, are unable to provide 'talking' therapy, and may be dismissive of those consulting with mental distress. A prescription for antidepressants was seen as the most likely outcome of a consultation, but young adults wished to avoid this and so rarely consulted. Encounters with GPs could challenge or reinforce these perceptions.

CONCLUSION:

Negative perceptions about the value of consulting a GP for mental distress may explain low rates of help-seeking among young adults, including those with severe distress. Young people require a better understanding of GPs' role. It is also necessary to address evidence reported elsewhere that some GPs also experience uncertainties about what they can offer within the constraints of primary care.

PMID:
17132380
PMCID:
PMC1934052
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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