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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


VICENTE, Benjamín et al. Service use patterns among adults with mental health problems in Chile. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2005, vol.18, n.4-5, pp.263-270. ISSN 1680-5348.

OBJECTIVE: To describe the patterns in the use of general health services and specialized health services among adults with mental health problems in Chile, as well as those persons' level of satisfaction with the services. The overall objective was to optimize the use of the limited resources available for mental health care in the countries of the Americas, especially Chile. METHODS: The diagnoses and the patterns of use of mental health services were obtained from the Chilean Study of Psychiatric Prevalence (Estudio Chileno de Prevalencia Psiquiátrica). That representative research on the adult population of Chile was based on a stratified random sample of 2 987 people 15 years old and older, done over the period of 1992 to 1999. The psychiatric diagnoses were obtained using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI). The interviewees were also asked about their use of general health care services and of mental health services in the preceding six months, as well as any barriers to accessing the services. RESULTS: More than 44% of the interviewees had had contact with some type of health service during the six months prior to the study, but only 5.6% received specialized care. Those who presented with a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder or of panic disorder consulted more frequently, but not in specialized centers. Consumption of substances such as alcohol and drugs as well as antisocial personality disorder were associated with a low level of consultation. When asked about sources of assistance for mental health problems, the majority of the interviewees mentioned only the formal health care system. More than 75% of the interviewees said that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the care that they had received. CONCLUSIONS: Our results confirm the existence of a wide gap between the need for care and the treatment that is actually received. The informal and folkloric alternative resources (priests, family members, healers, herbalists, etc.) were used less frequently than is generally believed to be true. The indirect barriers of access to services-linked to a lack of knowledge and to stigma-were more frequent than were the direct barriers. A sizable number of people who did not have a positive diagnosis on the CIDI utilized mental health services.

Keywords : Community mental health services; mental disorders; patient satisfaction; Chile.

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