Characteristics of Adults with Emotional Distress, and Patterns of Mental Health Services Use
Revital Gross, Dina Feldman, Yonathan Rabinowitz, Miriam Greenstein, Ayelet Berg
Health Policy Research Unit, JDC-Brookdale Institute and Mental Health Division, Ministry of Health, Jerusalem and School of Social Work, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan
We sought firsthand data on the extent of perceived mental health needs and on patterns of use of mental health services among Israelis aged 22 and over. The data are from a national survey conducted in 1995. A random sample of phone numbers from the telephone company's computerized listings yielded 1,395 completed questionnaires (response rate, 81%).
At some point in their lives, 27% had experienced emotional distress or mental health problems with which they had difficulty coping alone; 13.4% reported that they had such an experience during 1995. According to multivariate analysis, those more likely to report mental health problems were women, those with a chronic disease, Russian immigrants, divorced or widowed adults, those with a low level of education, and members of the Clalit sick fund. 38% of those who had ever had emotional or mental health problems had asked for help. The proportion of those seeking help was high among respondents aged 35-55, Hebrew speakers (compared to speakers of Russian or Arabic), and city dwellers, and the rate was low among members of the Clalit sick fund. Of those who did seek help, 39% went to a psychologist or a psychiatrist, 25% to their family doctor, 19% to a family member or friend, 7% to a social worker or social service agency, 6% to other medical personnel, and 4% to a psychiatric hospital. 30% turned for assistance to the private sector and 70% to the public sector.
These findings have special significance in view of the impending reform of the mental health services. As mandated by the new National Health Insurance Law, mental health services are to be included in the basket of health services provided by the sick funds. The data can be of use in the management of sick funds and for physicians working in the community, as they prepare for this change. In addition, the data will be of aid to national policy makers in planning services suited to the needs of different population groups and to allocate resources more rationally.