BACKGROUND: A large unmet need for mental healthcare in Lithuania is partially attributable to a lack of primary care providers with skills in this area. The aim of this study was to assess general practitioners' (GPs) experience in mental healthcare and their perceptions about how to increase their involvement in the field. METHODS: In this cross-sectional study, a 41-item questionnaire was distributed to a random sample of 797 Lithuanian GPs in order to investigate current practices in their provision of mental healthcare as well as their suggestions for the improvement of mental healthcare services in primary care. RESULTS: The response rate was 52.2%. Three-quarters of the GPs agreed that they feel responsible for the management of mental health problems, but only 8.8% of them agreed that "My knowledge in mental healthcare is sufficient". Psychiatrists were identified as the mental healthcare team specialists with whom 32% of the respondents discuss the management of their patients with a mental disorder. Collaboration with psychologists and social workers was almost threefold lower (11.6% and 12.5%). Capacity-building of GPs was found to be among the most promising initiatives to improve mental health services in primary care. Other strategies mentioned were policy level and managerial measures as well as strengthening the teamwork approach in mental healthcare. CONCLUSIONS: This study found a low self-reported competence of GPs in mental healthcare and low collaboration among GPs and other specialists in providing mental healthcare. For the situation to improve in the country, these findings point to a need for strategies to improve GPs' expertise and teamwork in mental healthcare.
International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 2014, Vol 8, Issue 1