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Planning mental health carer services requires information about the number of carers, their characteristics, service use and unmet support needs. Available Australian estimates vary widely due to different definitions of mental illness and the types of carers included. This study aimed to provide a detailed profile of Australian mental health carers using a nationally representative household survey.
The number of mental health carers, characteristics of carers and their care recipients, caring hours and tasks provided, service use and unmet service needs were derived from the national 2012 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers. Co-resident carers of adults with a mental illness were compared with those caring for people with physical health and other cognitive/behavioural conditions (e.g., autism, intellectual disability, dementia) on measures of service use, service needs and aspects of their caring role.
In 2012, there were 225 421 co-resident carers of adults with mental illness in Australia, representing 1.0% of the population, and an estimated further 103 813 mental health carers not living with their care recipient. The majority of co-resident carers supported one person with mental illness, usually their partner or adult child. Mental health carers were more likely than physical health carers to provide emotional support (68.1% v. 19.7% of carers) and less likely to assist with practical tasks (64.1% v. 86.6%) and activities of daily living (31.9% v. 48.9%). Of co-resident mental health carers, 22.5% or 50 828 people were confirmed primary carers – the person providing the most support to their care recipient. Many primary mental health carers (37.8%) provided more than 40 h of care per week. Only 23.8% of primary mental health carers received government income support for carers and only 34.4% received formal service assistance in their caring role, while 49.0% wanted more support. Significantly more primary mental health than primary physical health carers were dissatisfied with received services (20.0% v. 3.2%), and 35.0% did not know what services were available to them.
Results reveal a sizable number of mental health carers with unmet needs in the Australian community, particularly with respect to financial assistance and respite care, and that these carers are poorly informed about available supports. The prominence of emotional support and their greater dissatisfaction with services indicate a need to better tailor carer services. If implemented carefully, recent Australian reforms including the Carer Gateway and National Disability Insurance Scheme hold promise for improving mental health carer supports.
An epidemiological survey was conducted to determine the prevalence of the mental and substance use disorders and ascertain patterns of mental health services utilisation in Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) with the aim of evaluating existing gaps and opportunities in the provision of mental health services.
This study was a cross-sectional, household survey of adults living within Vientiane Capital province, Lao PDR. We collected data on participant demographics, mental and physical health status, family history of mental illness and exposure to potential risk factors. It also collected data on mental health service utilisation patterns, types of health professionals and treatment being accessed, barriers to treatment and perceived need for care. The MINI International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI v.6.0) was also administered to assess mental disorder prevalence.
Age- and sex-standardised current prevalence of any disorder was estimated at 15.2% (95% CI 11.0–20.7). Alcohol dependence (5.5% (95% CI 3.2–9.6)), was the most prevalent followed by anxiety disorders (5.2% (95% CI 3.2–8.3)) and mood disorders (2.5% (95% CI 1.5–4.4)). 11.0% (95% CI 5.8–20.1) of participants with a mental and/or substance use disorder suffered from other comorbid disorders. A number of variables demonstrated significant effects in final logistic regression models, including family history, education and employment for mental disorders; and gender, numbers of hours worked per week and number of dependants for substance use disorders. Having a mental or substance use disorder was associated with an OR of 11.6 of suicidality over participants without a mental or substance use disorder (95% CI 2.8–58.5). Of the 101 participants who met criteria for a current mental or substance use disorder, only two (2.1% (95% CI 0.5–8.0)) had accessed services for their mental health in the past 12 months. No participants who had seen a health professional in the past 12 months reported getting as much help as they needed. The vast majority (89.2% (95% CI 76.5–95.4)) of participants meeting criteria for a current mental or substance use disorder reported that they had not experienced mental health problems in the past 12 months.
This study presents the first epidemiological estimates for a range of mental and substance use disorders in the general population of the most populous province in Lao PDR. A large treatment gap exists for mental and substance use disorders in Lao PDR. This research adds value for health care and has been an important precursor to developing informed and targeted mental health policy, services and health system reform in Lao PDR.
Epidemiological models are frequently utilised to ascertain disease prevalence in a population; however, these estimates can have wider practical applications for informing targeted scale-up and optimisation of mental health services. We explore potential applications for a conflict-affected population, Syria.
We use prevalence estimates of major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in conflict-affected populations as inputs for subsequent estimations. We use Global Burden of Disease (GBD) methodology to estimate years lived with a disability (YLDs) for depression and PTSD in Syrian populations. Human resource (HR) requirements to scale-up recommended packages of care for PTSD and depression in Syria over a 15-year period were modelled using the World Health Organisation mhGAP costing tool. Associated avertable burden was estimated using health benefit analyses.
The total number of cases of PTSD in Syria was estimated at approximately 2.2 million, and approximately 1.1 million for depression. An age-standardised major depression rate of 13.4 (95% UI 9.8–17.5) YLDs per 1000 Syrian population is estimated compared with the GBD 2010 global age-standardised YLD rate of 9.2 (95% UI 7.0–11.8). HR requirements to support a linear scale-up of services in Syria using the mhGAP costing tool demonstrates a steady increase from 0.3 FTE in at baseline to 7.6 FTE per 100 000 population after scale-up. Linear scale-up over 15 years could see 7–9% of disease burden being averted.
Epidemiological estimates of mental disorders are key inputs into determining disease burden and guiding optimal mental health service delivery and can be used in target populations such as conflict-affected populations.
To examine: (1) gender-specific determinants of help-seeking for mental health, including health professional consultation and the use of non-clinical support services and self-management strategies (SS/SM) and; (2) gender differences among individuals with unmet perceived need for care.
Analyses focused on 689 males and 1075 females aged 16–85 years who met ICD-10 criteria for a past-year affective, anxiety or substance use disorder in an Australian community-representative survey. Two classifications of help-seeking for mental health in the previous year were created: (1) no health professional consultation or SS/SM, or health professional consultation, or SS/SM only, and; (2) no general practitioner (GP) or mental health professional consultation, or GP only consultation, or mental health professional consultation. Between- and within-gender help-seeking patterns were explored using multinomial logistic regression models. Characteristics of males and females with unmet perceived need for care were compared using chi-square tests.
Males with mental or substance use disorders had relatively lower odds than females of any health professional consultation (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 0.46), use of SS/SM only (AOR = 0.59), and GP only consultation (AOR = 0.29). Notably, males with severe disorders had substantially lower odds than females of any health professional consultation (AOR = 0.29) and GP only consultation (AOR = 0.14). Most correlates of help-seeking were need-related. Many applied to both genders (e.g., severity, disability, psychiatric comorbidity), although some were male-specific (e.g., past-year reaction to a traumatic event) or female-specific (e.g., past-year affective disorder). Certain enabling and predisposing factors increased the probability of health professional consultation for both genders (age 30+ years) or for males (unmarried, single parenthood, reliance on government pension). Males with unmet perceived need for care were more likely to have experienced a substance use disorder and to want medicine or tablets or social intervention, whereas their females peers were more likely to have experienced an anxiety disorder and to want counselling or talking therapy. For both genders, attitudinal/knowledge barriers to receiving the types of help wanted (e.g., not knowing where to get help) were more commonly reported than structural barriers (e.g., cost).
Findings suggest a need to address barriers to help-seeking in males with severe disorders, and promote GP consultation. Exploring gender-specific attitudinal/knowledge barriers to receiving help, and the types of help wanted, may assist in designing interventions to increase consultation. Mental health promotion/education efforts could incorporate information about the content and benefits of evidence-based treatments and encourage males to participate in other potentially beneficial actions (e.g., physical activity).
It is increasingly recognised that intersectoral linkages between mental health and other health and support sectors are essential for providing effective care for individuals with severe and persistent mental illness. The extent to which intersectoral collaboration and approaches to achieve it are detailed in mental health policy has not yet been systematically examined.
Thirty-eight mental health policy documents from 22 jurisdictions in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada were identified via a web search. Information was extracted and synthesised on: the extent to which intersectoral collaboration was an objective or guiding principle of policy; the sectors acknowledged as targets for collaboration; and the characteristics of detailed intersectoral collaboration efforts.
Recurring themes in objectives/guiding principles included a whole of government approach, coordination and integration of services, and increased social and economic participation. All jurisdictions acknowledged the importance of intersectoral collaboration, particularly with employment, education, housing, community, criminal justice, drug and alcohol, physical health, Indigenous, disability, emergency and aged care services. However, the level of detail provided varied widely. Where detailed strategies were described, the most common linkage mechanisms were joint service planning through intersectoral coordinating committees or liaison workers, interagency agreements, staff training and joint service provision.
Sectors and mechanisms identified for collaboration were largely consistent across jurisdictions. Little information was provided about strategies for accountability, resourcing, monitoring and evaluation of intersectoral collaboration initiatives, highlighting an area for further improvement. Examples of collaboration detailed in the policies provide a useful resource for other countries.
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