Objective: Developing countries such as India face a major mental health care gap. Delayed or inadequate care can have a profound impact on treatment outcomes. We compared pathways to care in first episode psychosis (FEP) between North and South India to inform solutions to bridge the treatment gap.
Methods: Cross-sectional observation study of 'untreated' FEP patients (n = 177) visiting a psychiatry department in two sites in India (AIIMS, New Delhi and SCARF, Chennai). We compared duration of untreated psychosis (DUP), first service encounters, illness attributions and socio-demographic factors between patients from North and South India. Correlates of DUP were explored using logistic regression analysis (DUP ≥ 6 months) and generalised linear models (DUP in weeks).
Results: Patients in North India had experienced longer DUP than patients in South India (β = 17.68, p < 0.05). The most common first encounter in North India was with a faith healer (45.7%), however, this contact was not significantly associated with longer DUP. Visiting a faith healer was the second most common first contact in South India (23.6%) and was significantly associated with longer DUP (Odds Ratio: 6.84; 95% Confidence Interval: 1.77, 26.49). Being in paid employment was significantly associated with shorter DUP across both sites.
Conclusions: Implementing early intervention strategies in a diverse country like India requires careful attention to local population demographics; one size may not fit all. A collaborative relationship between faith healers and mental health professionals could help with educational initiatives and to provide more accessible care.
Keywords: Duration of untreated psychosis; Early psychosis; North India; South India.
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