Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 40, Issue 10, pp 835–843 | Cite as

Recommendations of mental health professionals and the general population on how to treat mental disorders

  • Christoph Lauber
  • Carlos Nordt
  • Wulf Rössler
Original Paper



The objectives of the study are (1) to assess the mental health literacy of mental health professionals, (2) to determine whether there is agreement between different professional groups with respect to different psychopathological conditions and (3) to compare the professionals' knowledge with that of the general population.


Two representative samples of mental health professionals and laypersons were presented with a vignette depicting either a person with schizophrenia, major depression or without any psychiatric symptoms (‘non-case’). Out of 18 treatment proposals, the respondents were asked to indicate the proposals regarded as helpful and those considered as being harmful, respectively, for the person depicted.


Mental health professionals view their profession and less often their treatment methods as helpful. Dealing with the situation alone, electroconvulsive therapy, hypnotics and sedatives are consistently regarded as harmful. For the individual with schizophrenia, mental health professionals agree about helpful treatments. Regarding depression, a lack of consensus is found about treatment proposals such as psychiatric hospitalisation, antidepressants and complementary and alternative medicine. An important part of mental health professionals suggests medical help (psychologists and general practitioners) for the non-case vignette. Fewer nurses, social workers, vocational workers and occupational therapists (‘other therapists’) as compared to psychiatrists and psychologists recommend standard treatment methods. Professionals and the general population significantly differ in their attitudes towards the treatment suggestions, especially regarding medication and alternative medicine.


To improve the treatment of mental disorders, various strategies must be considered. These include permanent education of all mental health professionals, especially nurses and other therapists. A special focus must be given to affective disorders and a potential (over-) treatment of normal behaviour.

Key words

mental disorder stigma mental health literacy depression schizophrenia mental health professionals 



We are grateful to the study participants, to Luis Falcato for his help in grant application and to Eliza Holy and Catherine Braunschweig for their help with data collection. Finally, we would like to thank the unknown reviewers for their very helpful comments on a previous version of this paper. This study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant no. 3200-067259).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychiatric University HospitalZurichSwitzerland

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