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Lay recommendations on how to treat mental disorders.

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Psychiatric University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland.



Beliefs about the helpfulness of interventions are influencing the individual help-seeking behavior in case of mental illnesses. It is important to identify these beliefs as professional helpers are asked to consider them in their treatment recommendations.


Assessing lay proposals for an appropriate treatment of mental illnesses.


We conducted a representative opinion survey in Switzerland. Eighteen treatment proposals were presented with respect to a vignette either depicting schizophrenia or depression. Respondents were asked to indicate the proposals considered to be helpful for treatment and those considered to be harmful, respectively.


'Psychologist,' 'general practitioner,' 'fresh air, and 'psychiatrist' were mostly proposed as being helpful. Among several psychiatric treatment approaches 'psychotherapy' was favored, while psychopharmacological treatment and electroconvulsive therapy were only proposed by less than one-fourth of the interviewees. Especially psychotropic drugs were considered to be harmful. Treatment by a psychiatrist was regarded as being more helpful for schizophrenic individuals than for depressive persons. For a person experiencing a life crisis, treatment by a psychiatrist and psychological treatment were viewed as being harmful, and non-medical interventions were preferred. However, for persons thought to be mentally ill, psychiatric and psychopharmacological treatments were recommended.


Mental health professionals are regarded as being helpful although their treatment methods are seen as being less helpful. A clear distinction is made between lay proposals for depression and schizophrenia. However, the perception of whether a condition is considered to be an illness or a life crisis has significantly more influence on lay treatment proposals than the cited diagnosis in the vignette.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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