Health Professionals’ Recognition of Co-Occurring Alcohol and Depressive Disorders in Youth: A Survey of Australian General Practitioners, Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Mental Health Nurses Using Case Vignettes
OBJECTIVE: To examine whether health professionals who commonly deal with mental disorder are able to identify co-occurring alcohol misuse in young people presenting with depression. METHOD: Between September 2006 and January 2007, a survey examining beliefs regarding appropriate interventions for mental disorder in youth was sent to 1,710 psychiatrists, 2,000 general practitioners (GPs), 1,628 mental health nurses, and 2,000 psychologists in Australia. Participants within each professional group were randomly given one of four vignettes describing a young person with a DSM-IV mental disorder. Herein is reported data from the depression and depression with alcohol misuse vignettes. RESULTS: A total of 305 psychiatrists, 258 GPs, 292 mental health nurses and 375 psychologists completed one of the depression vignettes. A diagnosis of mood disorder was identified by at least 83.8% of professionals, with no significant differences noted between professional groups. Rates of reported co-occurring substance use disorders were substantially lower, particularly among older professionals and psychologists. CONCLUSIONS: GPs, psychologists and mental health professionals do not readily identify co-occurring alcohol misuse in young people with depression. Given the substantially negative impact of co-occurring disorders, it is imperative that health-care professionals are appropriately trained to detect such disorders promptly, to ensure young people have access to effective, early intervention.