Mental Distress and Patterns of Getting Help Prior to the Transfer of Responsibility for Mental Health to the Health Plans: A Service Consumers’ Perspective

The Ministry of Health is preparing for reform of the mental-health system whereby it will transfer responsibility for providing mental-health services to the health plans. Additional changes in the way mental-health services are organized and financed are also being planned. These changes are expected to influence both the patient experience of mental-health care and patient readiness to seek such care.

In light of the expected changes, in 2007 the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute added a special section on mental health to its periodic survey of the level of health-care service from the perspective of the general population. This enabled the study team to learn about the care experiences of a representative sample of Israeli adults who indicated past experience of mental distress with which they had found it difficult to cope on their own. The sample comprised 1,800 adults who were interviewed by phone between August and October.

The objectives of the report were:

  • To characterize the populations that report high rates of mental distress and to identify at-risk groups requiring special attention
  • To examine the factors that influence recourse to mental-health care and to identify groups that refrain from such recourse even when in need
  • To describe the patterns of service utilization and satisfaction with care prior to reform and the transfer of responsibility to the health plans

On the whole, the findings highlight the central place of primary care in patients’ efforts to seek help with mental distress. Moreover, primary care today already provides a response to a large portion of these needs.

The importance of the study findings detailed in this report is that they can serve as a basis for the ongoing efforts to improve mental-health services and for comparison with the situation after reform.

The findings were presented to the Minister of Health and senior officials at the Ministry of Health, to the Health Council, the health plans and the National Council for Primary Medicine.

The in-depth analysis of mental distress presented in this report was supported by Michael and Andrea Dubroff of Massachusetts USA. It is based on a periodic health-care survey that is funded with the assistance of the Government of Israel, the Clalit Health Services, Maccabi Healthcare Services, Leumit Health Fund and Meuhedet Health Plan.

Citations in the professional and academic literature

Ayalon, L., Gross, R., Yaari, A., Feldhamer, E., Balicer, R., & Goldfracht, M. (2011). Characteristics associated with purchasing antidepressant or antianxiety medications through primary care in Israel. Psychiatric Services62(9), 1041-1046.

Hornik-Lurie, T., Dès Sc, N. Z., Biderman, A., & Lerner, Y. (2016). Does Specializing in Family Medicine Improve the Detection and Diagnosis of Mental Health Problems?. The Israel journal of psychiatry and related sciences53(1), 63.