To measure changes in the attitude of Primary Health Care (PHC) physicians towards mental illnesses after a short-term training course. In addition, to ascertain if this change would persist 6 months after the training course.
This is an intervention type study. Out of 296 PHC physicians working in Eastern Saudi Arabia, 191 were randomly selected and divided randomly into two groups. The Study groups were tested for pre and post exposure (immediate and 6months later), to the psychiatric training course. The Control group was not involved in the intervention. The course was run over a 4-day period in June 1999. A 26-item self-administered questionnaire to assess the PHC physicians’ attitudes was used.
The study group consisted of 45 trainees, 24 (53%) of whom were men. The control group, 121 out of 166 physicians, responded to the questionnaire, with an 83% response rate, men forming 49%. The data analysis indicated a significant improvement in the PHC physicians’ attitude after the course (P<0.0001). Six months later, as compared with their immediate post-test, the positive attitudes persisted within the study group (p-value=0.274). Multiple regressions indicated that the duration of undergraduate psychiatric training was the only contributor factor.
This training course resulted in a positive change in the trainees’ attitudes. Besides, it showed that the undergraduate psychiatric training had a favourable effect on the PHC physicians’ attitude. Therefore, there should be frequent mental health training programs for PHC physicians. Moreover, physicians who spent longer period in undergraduate psychiatric training should be given the priority to work in PHC settings.