This paper compares the pathway to psychiatric care of patients contacting the South-Verona Community Psychiatrics Service (CPS) with the pathways described in other countries, using the method of the WHO cross-cultural study of pathways in psychiatric care. One hundred and sixteen South-Verona residents starting new episodes of care were traced and included in the study. The first port of call for 92% of patients was a doctor. More than one-third arrived at the CPS directly, not filtered by other carers. One-third went first to the GP and then straight to the CPS. Both the median total interval since onset of symptoms and the median interval between onset of the problem and first seeking care was 8 weeks. Patients presenting first at the two major ports of call tend to have a quite similar latency period before seeking care. Problems presented are represented mostly by depression and anxiety. The diagnosis of affective disorders occurred in more than half of the sample, followed by neurotic and somatoform disorders and schizophrenia and related disorders. The intervals after seeing the first carer are short and quite homogeneous among all patients. More than three-quarters of the patients said that they received some form of treatment for their presenting problems prior to arrival at the CPS, mostly psychopharmacotherapy with sedatives/hypnotics. These results are discussed in the light of those obtained in the WHO cross-cultural study.
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