Background: The aim of the current study was to investigate feasibility, response, and consequences of mental health screening and intervention in a population study setting.
Methods: In the Intervention study against Depression and Anxiety in Nord-Trøndelag (IDANT), all GPs and psychiatric nurses were invited to a psychiatric educational programme prior to the Health Study of Nord-Trøndelag County, Norway (HUNT 2, 1995-1997). Included in the HUNT 2 was the Hospital Anxiety and Depression rating Scale (HADS). All participants scoring 25 points or above (99th percentile, n = 654) were defined as the Psychiatric High Risk Group, (PHRG) and received a written notification regarding their high scores with a request to see their GP and to participate in the IDANT.
Results: In total 422 (64%) baseline forms could be retrieved in the IDANT. However, only 177 (27%) were returned by the GPs. Three out of four participants in the PHRG were already recognised by their GPs as patients with mental disorders prior to the IDANT. Negative reactions to the notification letter or to the invitation to the IDANT were uncommon, still only half of the subjects in the PHRG participated in the study. However, as a consequence of the IDANT in 64% of the cases the GPs started new treatment, revised ongoing treatment, or referred the respondents.
Conclusions: Though attitude towards psychiatry among GPs and participants was generally positive, response to the IDANT study was inadequate. Relatively few new cases were detected, yet the results indicate that the GPs altered their psychiatric care and practice markedly within the PHRG. Whether the educational programme had an impact on psychiatric services in the county in general cannot be answered in this study.