"This glorious twilight zone of uncertainty": mental health consultations in general practice in New Zealand

Soc Sci Med. 2005 Sep;61(6):1189-200. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.01.025. Epub 2005 Mar 17.


General practitioners provide treatment for the majority of people diagnosed as having a mental disorder in New Zealand, but much research suggests that they fail to diagnose many common mental disorders. This paper explores the issue of GP recognition of mental health problems through four discussion groups with GPs from the lower half of the North Island of New Zealand. GPs were asked to consider what they thought their role was in relation to mental health, what facilitated discussion of mental health issues in consultations and what could influence patients to disclose mental health problems. The analysis of the data collected drew on thematic and discourse analysis. Four key domains that had an impact on the consultation were identified, which were categorised as practice pressures, socio-cultural factors, the medico-legal framework and the consultation process. GPs employ a number of strategies to respond to the systemic and social issues influencing the consultation. This research suggests that GPs do recognise mental health problems in patients, but that a number of important factors result in the consultations not being labeled as mental health ones. The paper concludes by offering a framework for the mental health consultation that illustrates the systemic issues that GPs consider when making decisions about mental health consultations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Family Practice / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • New Zealand
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • State Medicine