Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine
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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 34  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 338-345

Help-seeking Behaviors Among Caregivers of Schizophrenia and other Psychotic Patients: A Hospital-based Study in Two Geographically and Culturally Distinct Indian Cities

1 Department of Psychiatry, Chhattisgarh Institute of Medical Sciences (CIMS), Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, India
2 Department of Psychiatry, Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (VIMHANS), New Delhi, India
3 Department of Psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Ansari Nagar, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Sujit Kumar Naik
Department of Psychiatry, Chhattisgarh Institute of Medical Sciences (CIMS), Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh - 495 009
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0253-7176.108214

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Background: India is a country of several diversities and cultures, which may influence the help-seeking behavior of mentally ill patients and families. Only a few Indian studies have focused on help seeking, especially for severe mental disorders. Objective: The study aimed to describe and compare the help-seeking behaviors among caregivers of psychotic patients visiting psychiatric clinics at two distinct cities of India. Materials and Methods: This was a cross-sectional exploratory study of key caregivers (N=50) of patients with a DSM-IV TR diagnosis of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, visiting psychiatric out-patient departments of VIMHANS, New Delhi, and CIMS, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh. After due informed consent was taken, a semi-structured proforma was administered for socio-demographic profile, illness details, causative beliefs, and information on help seeking. Results: Supernatural forces were held responsible by 40% of the Bilaspur sample in contrast to 8% in New Delhi sample. Faith-healers were initial contacts for 56% and 64% of sample, respectively, at New Delhi and Bilaspur. Faith-healers followed by a psychiatrist formed the commonest pathway of care at both centers (32% and 36%, respectively). The sample at New Delhi spent significantly more money (median: $4000 vs. $10) and traveled greater distances (median: 35 km vs. 10 km) for faith-healers during the course of illness. Two-thirds of sample in New Delhi and one-third at Bilaspur were aware of the nearby psychiatrist at the time of initial help seeking; however, only 28% and 12%, respectively, chose psychiatrist as an initial contact. The New Delhi sample reported a fear of medication adverse effects and stigma as perceived disadvantages of psychiatric help. The median time lost at both the centers was 1 month, with a maximum of 8.4 years in New Delhi and 4.9 years in Bilaspur. Of the total, 16% caregivers at New Delhi and 32% at Bilaspur center reported an intention to continue with faith-healing practices alongside psychiatric care. Conclusion: In spite of differing causal attributions, the patients and families across these cities may not be as different when it comes to behaviors related to help seeking for mental illness. Future large-scale studies across various regions of India may help in determining sociocultural and regional patterns of help seeking in greater detail.

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