Pathways to Care for Patients with Bipolar-I Disorder: An Exploratory Study from a Tertiary Care Centre of North India

Indian J Psychol Med. 2019 Jan-Feb;41(1):68-74. doi: 10.4103/IJPSYM.IJPSYM_201_18.


Introduction: Understanding the pathways to psychiatric care is important from a public health perspective. Only a few Indian studies have focused on this, particularly for severe mental disorders. The present study was planned to assess it in patients with Bipolar-I disorder (BD-I).

Materials and methods: Sixty-four patients with DSM 5 diagnosis of BD-I and their caregivers were included. A semi-structured interview proforma was used to gather information.

Results: Psychiatrists were the first care provider in 43.8% of the cases, followed by traditional faith healers (32.8%) and general physician/neurologists (17.2%). The median duration of untreated bipolar disorder (DUB) was 21 days (1 day to 152 months). Relatively long DUB (3.5 ± 3.5 years) was found for 17.2% of the sample. The median duration of the first contact with a psychiatrist was 45 days and the interval between the contact with the first care provider and a psychiatrist was 90 days (1 day to 151 months). At the time of first treatment seeking, 64% of patients and caregivers had poor awareness regarding psychiatric treatment.

Conclusions: Patients with BD-I seek help from psychiatrists, faith healers or other medical practitioners for multiple reasons. There is a need to sensitise the community and various service providers about early identification and optimum management of BD-I.

Keywords: Bipolar-I disorder; India; pathways to care.