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Can Fam Physician. 2006 Nov;52(11):1442-3.

Adolescent care. Part 2: communication and referral practices of family physicians caring for adolescents with mental health problems.

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Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



To document with whom family physicians communicate when evaluating adolescents with mental health problems, to whom they refer these adolescents, and their knowledge and perceptions of the accessibility of mental health services in their communities.


Mailed survey completed anonymously.


Province of Quebec.


All general practitioners who reported seeing at least 10 adolescents weekly (n = 255) among 707 physicians who participated in a larger survey on adolescent mental health care in general practice.


Whether family physicians communicated with people (such as parents, teachers, or school nurses) when evaluating adolescents with mental health problems. Number of adolescents referred to mental health services during the last year. Knowledge of mental health services in the community and perception of their accessibility.


When asked about the last 5 adolescents seen with symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts, depending on type of practice, 9% to 19% of physicians reported routinely communicating with parents, and 22% to 32% reported not contacting parents. Between 16% and 43% of physicians referred 5 adolescents or fewer to mental health services during a 12-month period. Most practitioners reported being adequately informed about the mental health services available in their local community clinics. Few physicians knew about services offered by private-practice psychologists, child psychiatrists, or community groups. Respondents perceived mental health services in community clinics (CLSCs) as the most accessible and child psychiatrists as the least accessible services.


Few physicians routinely contact parents when evaluating adolescents with serious mental health problems. Collaboration between family physicians and mental health professionals could be improved. The few referrals made to mental health professionals might indicate barriers to mental health services that could mean many adolescents do not receive the care they need. The lack of access to mental health services, notably to child psychiatrists, reported by most respondents could explain why some physicians choose not to refer adolescents.

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