|dc.description.abstract||The literature on spirituality, religion and health identifies spirituality and religious belief as being important components in the recovery from mental illness (May, Muir-Cochrane, & Clare, 2005; Swinton, 2001; Turbott, 1996). This project attempted to identify by use of a questionnaire New Zealand psychiatrists’ attitudes and practice with regard to religious and spiritual issues in mental health.
This study drew on and modified previous work on the topic (Curlin et al., 2007). Three questions were asked:
1. What are the opinions and attitudes of New Zealand psychiatrists regarding religion/spirituality and mental health?
2. What factors determine a clinician’s attitude and practice, with respect to spiritual matters?
3. What factors determine a clinician’s attitude and practice, with regard to spiritual and culturally-based mental health care providers? (i.e. Chaplains and kaumatua/tohunga)
An online survey was used, and advertised in the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists on-line newsletter.
The response rate was 18% of the total number of psychiatrists in New Zealand. Respondents self-selected to complete the survey, and, as such, the sample may not be representative of psychiatrists in New Zealand. The opinions and attitudes of respondents regarding religion/spirituality and mental health were found to be mixed. A number, however, whilst not necessarily professing religious and spiritual beliefs, acknowledged their importance to patients and therefore to psychiatric assessment and treatment.
The findings suggest that in New Zealand ethnicity is the single most significant factor that determines clinicians’ opinions and practices with respect to religion and spirituality. Those psychiatrists in this sample who identified as New Zealanders were less likely to believe in God, less likely to see value in religious involvement and less likely to refer patients to spiritual and cultural advisors or carers. On the other hand, psychiatrists identifying as New Zealanders, particularly those still in training, were more likely to see value in marae involvement but were not more likely to refer Maori patients to Maori spiritual leaders.
The findings suggest further research is needed in this area of psychiatry in New Zealand using a more representative sample. This could help provide a basis for better training of psychiatrists in the religious/spiritual domain and therefore better understanding. As a result mental health consumers could receive more effective treatment modalities and outcomes.||