Medical personnel have reported increases in psychological distress and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, many providers, including primary care providers (PCPs), face significant stigma related to personal mental healthcare. However, the process by which stigma affects help-seeking among PCPs is unclear.
Between January and May 2020, 112 PCPs completed a survey of perceived public stigma, self-stigma, attitudes, intentions to seek psychotherapy for depression, and a clinical vignette on patient referrals to psychotherapy.
Self-stigma and attitudes toward psychotherapy sequentially mediated the relationship between perceived public stigma and intentions to seek psychotherapy. PCPs were more likely to refer a depressed patient to psychotherapy than seek personal psychotherapy, but lower personal help-seeking intentions were associated with lower referral intentions.
These results clarify processes by which stigma hinders PCPs’ psychotherapy use and highlight interventions to encourage their help-seeking. Addressing cultural and practical barriers in the medical field is needed to reduce stigma.