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
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Systems
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jan 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The WHO World Mental Health Survey collaborators are Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, MD, PhD; Ali Al-Hamzawi, MD; Mohammed Salih Al-Kaisy, MD; Jordi Alonso, MD, PhD; Yasmin A. Altwaijri, PhD; Laura Helena Andrade, MD, PhD; Lukoye Atwoli, MD, PhD; Corina Benjet, PhD; Guilherme Borges, ScD; Evelyn J. Bromet, PhD; Ronny Bruffaerts, PhD; Brendan Bunting, PhD; Jose Miguel Caldas-de-Almeida, MD, PhD; Gra?a Cardoso, MD, PhD; Somnath Chatterji, MD; Alfredo H. Cia, MD; Louisa Degenhardt, PhD; Koen Demyttenaere, MD, PhD; Silvia Florescu, MD, PhD; Giovanni de Girolamo, MD; Oye Gureje, MD, DSc, FRCPsych; Josep Maria Haro, MD, PhD; Meredith G. Harris, PhD; Hristo Hinkov, MD, PhD; Chi-yi Hu, MD, PhD; Peter de Jonge, PhD; Aimee Nasser Karam, PhD; Elie G. Karam, MD; Georges Karam, MD; Norito Kawakami, MD, DMSc; Ronald C. Kessler, PhD; Andrzej Kiejna, MD, PhD; Viviane Kovess-Masfety, MD, PhD; Sing Lee, MBBS; Jean-Pierre Lepine, MD; John J. McGrath, MD, PhD; Maria Elena Medina-Mora, PhD; Zeina Mneimneh, PhD; Jacek Moskalewicz, PhD; Fernando Navarro-Mateu, MD, PhD; Marina Piazza, MPH, ScD; Jose Posada-Villa, MD; Kate M. Scott, PhD; Tim Slade, PhD; Juan Carlos Stagnaro, MD, PhD; Dan J. Stein, FRCPC, PhD; Margreet ten Have, PhD; Yolanda Torres, MPH, Dra.HC; Maria Carmen Viana, MD, PhD; Daniel V. Vigo, MD, DrPH; Harvey Whiteford, MBBS, PhD; David R. Williams, MPH, PhD; Bogdan Wojtyniak, ScD.

Funding Information:
The World Health Organization World Mental Health (WMH) Survey Initiative is supported by the United States National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; R01 MH070884), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Pfizer Foundation, the United States Public Health Service (R13-MH066849, R01-MH069864, and R01 DA016558), the Fogarty International Center (FIRCA R03-TW006481), the Pan American Health Organization, Eli Lilly and Company, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, and Bristol-Myers Squibb. We thank the staff of the WMH Data Collection and Data Analysis Coordination Centres for assistance with instrumentation, fieldwork, and consultation on data analysis.

Funding Information:
The Argentina survey − Estudio Argentino de Epidemiología en Salud Mental (EASM) − was supported by a grant from the Argentinian Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud de la Nación) − (Grant Number 2002-17270/13-5). The São Paulo Megacity Mental Health Survey is supported by the State of São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) Thematic Project Grant 03/00204–3. The Bulgarian Epidemiological Study of common mental disorders—EPIBUL 2, is supported by the Ministry of Health and European Economic Area Grants. The Mental Health Study Medellín – Colombia was carried out and supported jointly by the Center for Excellence on Research in Mental Health (CES University) and the Secretary of Health of Medellín. Implementation of the Iraq Mental Health Survey (IMHS) and data entry were carried out by the staff of the Iraqi MOH and MOP with direct support from the Iraqi IMHS team with funding from both the Japanese and European Funds through United Nations Development Group Iraq Trust Fund (UNDG ITF). The World Mental Health Japan (WMHJ) Survey is supported by the Grant for Research on Psychiatric and Neurological Diseases and Mental Health (H13-SHOGAI-023, H14-TOKUBETSU-026, H16-KOKORO-013, H25-SEISHIN-IPPAN-006) from the Japan Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. The Mexican National Comorbidity Survey (MNCS) is supported by The National Institute of Psychiatry Ramon de la Fuente (INPRFMDIES 4280) and by the National Council on Science and Technology (CONACyT-G30544- H), with supplemental support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Te Rau Hinengaro: The New Zealand Mental Health Survey (NZMHS) is supported by the New Zealand Ministry of Health, Alcohol Advisory Council, and the Health Research Council. The Northern Ireland Study of Mental Health was funded by the Health & Social Care Research & Development Division of the Public Health Agency. The Peruvian World Mental Health Study was funded by the National Institute of Health of the Ministry of Health of Peru. The Polish project Epidemiology of Mental Health and Access to Care − EZOP Project (PL 0256) was carried out by the Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology in Warsaw in consortium with Department of Psychiatry—Medical University in Wroclaw and National Institute of Public Health-National Institute of Hygiene in Warsaw and in partnership with Psykiatrist Institut Vinderen – Universitet, Oslo. The project was funded by the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism. EZOP project was co-financed by the Polish Ministry of Health. The Portuguese Mental Health Study was carried out by the Department of Mental Health, Faculty of Medical Sciences, NOVA University of Lisbon, with collaboration of the Portuguese Catholic University, and was funded by Champalimaud Foundation, Gulbenkian Foundation, Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and Ministry of Health. The Romania WMH study projects "Policies in Mental Health Area" and "National Study regarding Mental Health and Services Use" were carried out by National School of Public Health & Health Services Management (former National Institute for Research & Development in Health), with technical support of Metro Media Transilvania, the National Institute of Statistics-National Centre for Training in Statistics, SC Cheyenne Services SRL, Statistics Netherlands and were funded by Ministry of Public Health (former Ministry of Health) with supplemental support of Eli Lilly Romania SRL. The Saudi National Mental Health Survey (SNMHS) is conducted by the King Salman Center for Disability Research. It is funded by Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), Ministry of Health (Saudi Arabia), and King Saud University. Funding in-kind was provided by King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, and the Ministry of Economy and Planning, General Authority for Statistics. The Shenzhen Mental Health Survey is supported by the Shenzhen Bureau of Health and the Shenzhen Bureau of Science, Technology, and Information. The Psychiatric Enquiry to General Population in Southeast Spain – Murcia (PEGASUS-Murcia) Project has been financed by the Regional Health Authorities of Murcia (Servicio Murciano de Salud and Consejería de Sanidad y Política Social) and Fundación para la Formación e Investigación Sanitarias (FFIS) of Murcia. The US National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; U01-MH60220) with supplemental support from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF; Grant 044,708), and the John W. Alden Trust.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Research
  • Mental health services research: Lessons from the WHO-World Mental Health Surveys Initiative
  • Mental health services
  • Health service use
  • Perceived helpfulness
  • Patient perspectives
  • Healthcare providers
  • Service sectors
  • Treatment profiles
  • Mental disorders
  • Substance use disorders


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