Barriers to Help-Seeking, Detection, and Adequate Treatment for Anxiety and Mood Disorders: Implications for Health Care Policy

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Recently, the focus of health policies and initiatives has been directed toward mental health. More precisely, depressive and anxiety disorders have received particular attention because of their disabling outcomes and prevalence among most populations. Despite this increased interest, numerous issues regarding patients' willingness to seek treatment and the adequate recognition and treatment of these disorders by clinicians remain to be addressed. This article considers the factors that influence patients and physicians in their reticence to acknowledge and adequately treat depression and anxiety disorders. It also reviews the impact of society and the media, together with other factors relating to health care organization and administration that affect the treatment of depression and anxiety. In view of the multifaceted challenge involved, efforts to achieve a consensus in determining treatment for those with depressive and anxiety disorders are essential. A consensus will require easy, measurable, and reliable disability indicators; evidence that treatment of patients with varying levels of need is cost effective; and that persons who most need and would benefit from care can be reliably identified among the highly prevalent population of persons with more transient symptoms. Governments and other policymakers should be encouraged to provide appropriate coverage for access to primary and secondary care, the treatments required, and sufficient resources so that care is available when necessary. An important aspect of the challenge is to incorporate these efforts within the realistic constraints of primary care.

J Clin Psychiatry 2007;68(suppl 2):20-26