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Keywords:

  • Australia;
  • general practitioners;
  • mental health help;
  • mental health services;
  • psychiatrists;
  • sociodemographic factors

Objective: Using the 1997 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, this study examined the types of mental health help provided to those Australians who use mental health services. We also sought to identify the extent to which sociodemographic factors, patterns of psychiatric morbidity and type of health practitioner seen were associated with receiving different types of mental health help.

Method: Multiple logistic regressions were undertaken to identify predictor variables associated with receiving information, medication, psychological therapy, practical help and help looking after oneself or one's home. A total of 25 predictor variables provided in the National Survey were considered including age, sex, marital status, labour force status, geographical location, education, psychological symptoms, neuroticism, diagnoses of affective, anxiety and substance-abuse disorders and self-identified depression, anxiety and substance abuse. The type of practitioner seen for mental health reasons was also considered.

Results: Of the sociodemographic factors, age was the most consistently associated with receiving particular types of help. Younger respondents were more likely to have received information whereas older patients reported receiving more medication. As might be expected, the type and severity of psychiatric morbidity and the category of health professional seen were also associated with receiving particular types of mental health help.

Conclusions: There are relatively few predictor variables that suggest possible bias in the types of help provided. Age group of recipient is an important exception. Our findings suggest that older recipients of mental health care are not provided the range of mental health treatments offered younger people who present with similar problems.