Perceived helpfulness of service sectors used for mental and substance use disorders: Findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys

Meredith G. Harris, Alan E. Kazdin, Richard J. Munthali, Daniel V. Vigo, Irving Hwang, Nancy A. Sampson, Ali Al-Hamzawi, Jordi Alonso, Laura Helena Andrade, Guilherme Borges, Brendan Bunting, Silvia Florescu, Oye Gureje, Elie G. Karam, Sing Lee, Fernando Navarro-Mateu, Daisuke Nishi, Charlene Rapsey, Kate M. Scott, Juan Carlos StagnaroMaria Carmen Viana, Bogdan Wojtyniak, Miguel Xavier, Ronald C. Kessler

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Background: Mental healthcare is delivered across service sectors that differ in level of specialization and intervention modalities typically offered. Little is known about the perceived helpfulness of the combinations of service sectors that patients use. Methods: Respondents 18 + years with 12-month DSM-IV mental or substance use disorders who saw a provider for mental health problems in the year before interview were identified from WHO World Mental Health surveys in 17 countries. Based upon the types of providers seen, patients were grouped into nine mutually exclusive single-sector or multi-sector ‘treatment profiles’. Perceived helpfulness was defined as the patient’s maximum rating of being helped (‘a lot’, ‘some’, ‘a little’ or ‘not at all’) of any type of provider seen in the profile. Logistic regression analysis was used to examine the joint associations of sociodemographics, disorder types, and treatment profiles with being helped ‘a lot’. Results: Across all surveys combined, 29.4% (S.E. 0.6) of respondents with a 12-month disorder saw a provider in the past year (N = 3221). Of these patients, 58.2% (S.E. 1.0) reported being helped ‘a lot’. Odds of being helped ‘a lot’ were significantly higher (odds ratios [ORs] = 1.50–1.89) among the 12.9% of patients who used specialized multi-sector profiles involving both psychiatrists and other mental health specialists, compared to other patients, despite their high comorbidities. Lower odds of being helped ‘a lot’ were found among patients who were seen only in the general medical, psychiatrist, or other mental health specialty sectors (ORs = 0.46–0.71). Female gender and older age were associated with increased odds of being helped ‘a lot’. In models stratified by country income group, having 3 or more disorders (high-income countries only) and state-funded health insurance (low/middle-income countries only) were associated with increased odds of being helped ‘a lot’. Conclusions: Patients who received specialized, multi-sector care were more likely than other patients to report being helped ‘a lot’. This result is consistent with previous research suggesting that persistence in help-seeking is associated with receiving helpful treatment. Given the nonrandom sorting of patients by types of providers seen and persistence in help-seeking, we cannot discount that selection bias may play some role in this pattern.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2022


  • Health service use
  • Healthcare providers
  • Mental disorders
  • Mental health services
  • Patient perspectives
  • Perceived helpfulness
  • Service sectors
  • Substance use disorders
  • Treatment profiles


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