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Psychiatr Serv. 2000 Feb;51(2):199-202.

Knowledge of mental health benefits and preferences for type of mental health providers among the general public.

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Department of Psychiatry, Michican State University, East Lansing, Michcan 48824, USA.



The study explored knowledge of mental health benefits and preferences for providers among the general public.


Analysis was based on a telephone survey of 1,358 adults randomly sampled throughout Michigan in 1997-1998.


A large proportion of the respondents were uninformed about their mental health benefits. One-quarter of the sample were unsure if their health plan even included mental health services. Forty-three percent of the sample believed that mental health benefits were equal to benefits provided for general medical services. In answer to a survey question that summarized payment restrictions for psychiatric services and counseling under Medicare, nearly a quarter of older respondents indicated that they would not seek care even when needed. In the overall sample, the majority of respondents said they would initially seek care from their primary care physician for a mental health problem, although responses varied by age. Persons over age 65 were significantly more likely to seek assistance from their primary care doctor than were younger persons.


The general public lacks information about important mental health benefits, and this lack of information may represent a barrier in their seeking care when needed. Given the overriding preference for primary care providers to treat mental health problems, particularly among older adults, mental health issues should be given more attention at all levels of primary care education.

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[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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