Article abstract

Introduction: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorders are severe mental illnesses (SMI) associated with high levels of co-morbid psychopathology and premature mortality. Reducing delays in accessing services and providing early intervention are key strategies in preventing morbidity and mortality associated with these diseases. The pathways to psychiatric care have been studied in many countries worldwide. To the best of our knowledge, no study on this subject has so far been conducted in Tunisia. The purpose of the present study was to understand the pathways of care adopted by patients, to determine the care delay and to explore the relationship between delayed consultation and socio-demographic and clinical variables.


Methods: this is a cross-sectional descriptive study conducted at the Department Psychiatry A of Razi Hospital including patients with SMI consulting the outpatient clinic between January and March 2018. Data was collected by one medical investigator who conducted face-to-face interviews with patients using a questionnaire based on the World Health Organization's "Pathway Questionnaire". Data analysis was done using the SPSS software version 17. A multivariate analysis was performed to study the relation between delayed consultation and socio-demographic and clinical variables.


Results: a total of 232 patients responded to the questionnaire. The average age was 41.3 years 10.1 and the gender ratio was 1.2. More than the third of the study population consulted a traditional healer in the first place and sixty percent of the patients had recourse to a medical doctor. The average consultation delay was 15 months (23.0) with a median of 6 months. The delay was more than 6 months in around half of the cases. The symptoms that motivated the first consultation were hallucinations, sleep disorders and aggressive behavior. The main reason of delayed consultation was lack of knowledge about psychiatric symptoms followed by illness beliefs and insidious onset of the illness. The multivariate analysis showed a significant relationship between aggressive behavior and non-delayed consultation.


Conclusion: the principal recommendations are to strengthen public education and awareness about SMI in the Tunisian population and to implement an early detection program of these disorders.