Attitudes Regarding Seeking Help for Mental Health Problems and Beliefs About Treatment Effectiveness: A Comparison Between Providers and the General Public

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Providers are not immune from experiencing mental health problems and the attitudes and beliefs of providers in regards to seeking mental health treatment and their perceptions regarding the effectiveness of that treatment may have important implications for the patients they serve. However, little is known about these attitudes and beliefs. We compared the attitudes and beliefs of a sample of United States Department of Veterans Affairs health care providers regarding their own mental health problems and treatment to a representative sample of U.S. residents. The majority of the participants in both samples reported willingness to seek professional help for mental health problems and approximately one-third reported feeling embarrassed if their friends were to know about their help seeking; no significant differences were found between the groups. The majority in both samples also felt comfortable talking about mental health problems, with providers significantly more comfortable than the general public. The majority of both groups believed that at least half of those people who saw professionals for mental health problems are helped and that for those people who did not see professionals for mental health problems, less than half tended to get better without treatment; providers’ beliefs were significantly more positive regarding treatment effectiveness. The findings suggest the need for interventions to address perceived public stigma and label avoidance. Additionally, providers should be aware that their views about treatment effectiveness, the natural course of mental health problems, and level of comfort are not necessarily shared by the general public.

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