Background: Depression is a frequent psychiatric disorder, and depressive patient may be more problematic for the family doctors (FD) than a patient suffering from a somatic disease. Treatment of patients with depressive disorders is a relatively new task for Estonian FDs. The aim of our study was to find out the family doctors' attitudes to depression related problems, their readiness, motivating factors and problems in the treatment of depressive patients as well as the existence of relevant knowledge.
Methods: In 2002, altogether 500 FDs in Estonia were invited to take part in a tailor-made questionnaire survey, of which 205 agreed to participate.
Results: Of the respondents 185(90%) considered management of depressive patients and their treatment to be the task of FDs. One hundred and eighty FDs (88%) were themselves ready to deal with depressed patients, and 200(98%) of them actually treated such patients. Commitment to the interests of the patients, better cooperation with successfully treated patients, the patients' higher confidence in FDs and disappearance of somatic complaints during the treatment of depression were the motivating factors for FDs. FDs listed several important problems interfering with their work with depressive patients: limited time for one patient, patients' attitudes towards the diagnosis of depression, doctors' difficulties to change the underlying causes of depression, discontinuation of the treatment due to high expenses and length. Although 115(56%) respondents maintained that they had sufficient knowledge for diagnostics and treatment of depression, 181(88%) were of the opinion that they needed additional training.
Conclusion: FDs are ready to manage patients who might suffer from depression and are motivated by good doctor-patient relationship. However, majority of them feel that they need additional training.