Background: The early recognition and timely treatment of psychiatric disorders helps reduce suffering, prevents mental disabilities and makes interventions more cost-effective.
Objective: To examine treatment lag among Arab- and Jewish-Israelis applying to psychiatric clinics for the first time, and the association of this lag with selected socio-demographic and mental health-related variables.
Methods: 251 adult outpatients making their first-ever visit to a psychiatric clinic completed a self-administered questionnaire, including questions on the time elapsed since the onset of the current disorder, reasons for the treatment lag, source of referral, main complaints, current psychiatric problems (self-diagnosis), attitudes to psychiatric disorders and treatment, pathways to care, and standard sociodemographic information. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to compare Arab- and Jewish-Israelis on parameters of interest.
Results: Compared with their Jewish counterparts, Arab-Israeli patients showed a two-fold delay in initial treatment contact (X2 = 4.00, df = 1, p < 0.05). Logistic regression analysis showed that this delay was associated with lower schooling, other-than-psychiatric attribution of mental symptoms, and a more pessimistic attitude to the successful treatment of mental disorders in general and for oneself in particular.
Conclusions: Since longer treatment delay was mostly associated with potentially modifiable knowledge and attitudes on mental disorders and treatment, educational programs targeting specific community sectors and community agents should be promoted to shorten this lag.