Background: Papua New Guinea is a developing country with limited resources for specialist mental health services. Little is known about the mental health and treatment services of Papua New Guinea.
Aim: The aim of this study was to clarify the presenting mental health problems encountered by Papua New Guinean health workers and the common treatment approaches used.
Methods: A total of 203 Papua New Guinean health workers completed a retrospective quantitative survey about their three most recent mental health patients. The survey asked about presenting symptomatology, diagnoses (including culture-bound diagnoses) and treatment approaches.
Results: The major presenting mental health problems for males included schizophrenia, substance use disorder, sorcery and spirit possession. Depression was the most common diagnoses for women, followed by sorcery and somatisation. Over 65% of patients were prescribed psychotropic medication, over 50% received some form of psychological intervention and 28% were receiving traditional treatments.
Conclusions: Somatic symptoms are common among both male and female Papua New Guineans; however, males may be more likely to present with psychotic symptoms and females with mood-related problems. Schizophrenia and depression are commonly identified with substance use disorder more problematic among males. Culture-specific explanations and treatment are commonly used.