Beliefs about mental disorder treatment and prognosis: Comparison of health professionals with the Australian public Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE: In the 1990s, large differences in beliefs about the helpfulness of treatments for mental disorders were observed between the Australian public and health professionals. This study evaluates whether gaps in public and professional beliefs remain by comparing beliefs of the public and health professionals on the helpfulness of interventions and likely prognosis for six mental health problems: depression, depression with suicidal thoughts, early schizophrenia, chronic schizophrenia, social phobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. METHODS: Mental health literacy surveys based around a vignette of a person with a mental disorder were carried out in a nationally representative sample of the Australian public (n=6019) in 2011 and samples of Australian general practitioners, psychiatrists, and psychologists (n=1536) in 2012. Respondents were asked to rate the helpfulness of a range of interventions and the likely outcome with or without appropriate professional treatment. Differences between groups were examined with chi-square tests. RESULTS: There were many significant differences in treatment beliefs, but most of these were small in size. Medium-sized differences tended to be consistent across vignettes and relate to the greater belief by the public in the helpfulness of close family or friends, a counsellor, vitamins and minerals, a special diet or avoiding certain foods, and having an occasional alcohol drink to relax. In contrast, professionals showed a greater belief in psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy for depression and anxiety, and antipsychotics for schizophrenia. Findings on prognosis showed mostly small differences in beliefs. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, the results indicate that the views of the public and professionals are more aligned than in the 1990s. There are now few large gaps in treatment beliefs, but there remain some areas that could be improved.

publication date

  • 2014