Abstract

Purpose: To describe a cross-sectional exploration of attitudes of physiotherapists in general practice in Western Australia toward psychiatry and mental illness, how often they treat people with mental illness, their perceptions of how well their undergraduate education prepared them to work with these people, and their opinions about what further education would enable them to provide best practice care.

Methods: A questionnaire that included questions about participants’ demographic information, personal experiences with mental illness, the ATP-30, and open-ended questions about their preparedness to work with people with mental illness was distributed through 110 email contacts to physiotherapy departments in Western Australia.

Results: A total of 75 completed questionnaires contributed to the findings; 11 returned questionnaires were incomplete and were not included in the data analysis. ATP-30 scores indicated moderately positive attitudes toward psychiatry and mental illness. Females indicated significantly more positive attitudes than males. Of the full sample, 41% (n = 31) reported treating someone with a comorbid mental health problem every day and 76% (n = 57) every week.

Conclusion: Physiotherapists in general practice in Western Australia have generally positive perceptions of psychiatry. The majority of clinicians reported treating patients with mental illness at least once a week. Participants identified that they felt underprepared to work with this patient group, a need for the undergraduate curriculum to be revised, and an overwhelming need for postgraduate training in psychiatry and mental health.

Keywords

attitude, comorbid mental health issues, physiotherapists, preparedness, psychiatry

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