Whose responsibility? Part 1 of 2: A scale to assess how stakeholders apportion responsibilities for addressing the needs of persons with mental health problems

Int J Ment Health Syst. 2022 Jan 10;16(1):1. doi: 10.1186/s13033-021-00510-x.


Background: Individuals with mental health problems have multiple, often inadequately met needs. Responsibility for meeting these needs frequently falls to patients, their families/caregivers, and governments. Little is known about stakeholders' views of who should be responsible for these needs and there are no measures to assess this construct. This study's objectives were to present the newly designed Whose Responsibility Scale (WRS), which assesses how stakeholders apportion responsibility to persons with mental health problems, their families, and the government for addressing various needs of persons with mental health problems, and to report its psychometric properties.

Methods: The 22-item WRS asks respondents to assign relative responsibility to the government versus persons with mental health problems, government versus families, and families versus persons with mental health problems for seven support needs. The items were modelled on a World Values Survey item comparing the government's and people's responsibility for ensuring that everyone is provided for. We administered English, Tamil, and French versions to 57 patients, 60 family members, and 27 clinicians at two early psychosis programs in Chennai, India, and Montreal, Canada, evaluating test-retest reliability, internal consistency, and ease of use. Internal consistency estimates were also calculated for confirmatory purposes with the larger samples from the main comparative study.

Results: Test-retest reliability (intra-class correlation coefficients) generally ranged from excellent to fair across stakeholders (patients, families, and clinicians), settings (Montreal and Chennai), and languages (English, French, and Tamil). In the standardization and larger confirmatory samples, internal consistency estimates (Cronbach's alphas) ranged from acceptable to excellent. The WRS scored average on ease of comprehension and completion. Scores were spread across the 1-10 range, suggesting that the scale captured variations in views on how responsibility for meeting needs should be distributed. On select items, scores at one end of the scale were never endorsed, but these reflected expected views about specific needs (e.g., Chennai patients never endorsed patients as being substantially more responsible for housing needs than families).

Conclusions: The WRS is a promising measure for use across geo-cultural contexts to inform mental health policies, and to foster dialogue and accountability among stakeholders about roles and responsibilities. It can help researchers study stakeholders' views about responsibilities, and how these shape and are shaped by sociocultural contexts and mental healthcare systems.

Keywords: Assessment/measure; Culture; Family; Government; Low-and middle-income countries; Mental health; Psychosis; Responsibility; Shared decision-making; Stakeholder participation.