Mental healthcare experts worldwide have been calling for increased contributions from medical professionals and organisations to improve the skills of healthcare practitioners and their coordination with mentally ill patients. However, the contributions and roles of paramedics in treating the mentally ill are still considered limited, and few studies have been conducted on paramedics’ judgement and decision-making when caring for patients with mental illness. This study aimed to assess paramedics’ perceptions, knowledge and skills in dealing with psychiatric emergencies.
A cross-sectional study was conducted among participants from the Saudi Red Crescent Authority; different hospitals in Riyadh were invited from September to October 2019 to complete a validated structured questionnaire. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences version 22 (SPSS 22) software was used for data analysis.
A total of 124 participants were included in this study; their mean age was 29.93 years, 95.2% were male, 78.9% had a bachelor degree and 12.1% had higher education. The majority of participants agreed that it is important for paramedics to know about mental illness (91.1%) and stated that they were comfortable managing a person with mental illness (63.7%). Almost half (49.6%) disagreed with the statement that psychiatric disorders are caused by religious or supernatural factors, whereas 24% were unsure, and 26.4% agreed. On assessing paramedics’ knowledge and skills, 31.4% scored above average, 42% scored average (average defined as answering six to seven out of 10 questions correctly), and 26.6% scored below average. However, when asked if they carry out the mental status examination on mentally ill patients, 66.1% stated ‘no’.
This study indicated that the majority of paramedics have positive perceptions regarding mental illness; moreover, it was shown that paramedics are knowledgeable and trained in dealing with emergency psychiatric patients. Further investigation regarding the practice and role of paramedics is necessary.
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