Lost in translation? A qualitative study of representations and management of chronic depression in general practice

BMC Prim Care. 2023 Mar 24;24(1):83. doi: 10.1186/s12875-023-02019-3.


Background: GPs are on the front line for the identification and management of chronic depression but not much is known of their representations and management of chronic depression.

Objectives: To analyze GPs' representations of chronic depression and to explore how they manage it.

Methods: Three focus groups were conducted with 22 French-speaking general practitioners in Switzerland. The focus groups were transcribed and coded with MaxQDA. A detailed content analysis was carried out and the results were synthesized into a conceptual map.

Results: GPs form representations of chronic depression at the intersection of expert and lay knowledge. When talking about patients suffering from chronic depression, GPs mention middle-aged women with complex psychosocial situations and somatic complaints. GPs' management of chronic depression relies on the relationship with their patients, but also on taking care of them as a whole: psyche, body and social context. GPs often feel helpless and lonely when confronted with a patient with chronic depression. They insist on the importance of collaboration and supervision. As regards chronic depression management, GPs remain alone with patients suffering from complex biopsychosocial situations. In other situations, GPs seek the help of a psychiatrist, sometimes quickly, sometimes after a long approach. In each situation, GPs have to develop skills for translating patients' complaints.

Conclusion: GPs endorse a role of interpreter, making the physical presentation of their patient complaints move towards a psychological appreciation. Our results call for a renewed interest in GPs' role as interpreters and the means to achieve it.

Keywords: Chronic depression; Focus Groups; General practitioners; Mental Health; Patient care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / therapy
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • General Practice* / methods
  • General Practitioners* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research