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BACKGROUND: The contribution of mental illness to the total burden of disease in India nearly doubled from 1990 to 2017, increasing from 2.5% of the total disability-adjusted life years in 1990 to 4.7% in 2017. Despite efforts by the Indian government, a treatment gap of 75-85%, with heterogeneity across multiple dimensions, exists across India. We conducted a qualitative study in Tamil Nadu, India, to better understand the contextual factors affecting the care-seeking behaviour for mental illness. METHODS: Qualitative methods, including semi-structured interviews and focus groups (FGs), were conducted with stakeholders involved in the mental health care pathway in Tamil Nadu. Ten semi-structured interviews and five FGs were conducted and analysed using an inductive approach to identify codes, using Dedoose v7, related to the emerging themes and categories. RESULTS: Our analyses identified three key areas that influence care-seeking: views on what causes and/or constitutes mental illness, stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness and broader factors influencing decision-making. CONCLUSIONS: The specific contextual factors identified by our study can be used to design and implement approaches that can help to address some of the issues that influence the care-seeking behaviour and manifest in the treatment gaps seen in Tamil Nadu and in India, more generally.

Original publication




Journal article


J Public Health (Oxf)

Publication Date





ii10 - ii16


health services, management and policy, mental health, Humans, India, Mental Disorders, Patient Acceptance of Health Care, Qualitative Research, Social Stigma