Open Access Open Badges Research article

A qualitative study on primary health care professionals’ perceptions of mental health, suicidal problems and help-seeking among young people in Nicaragua

Claudia Obando Medina1*, Gunnar Kullgren2 and Kjerstin Dahlblom3

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Demography and Health Research, Nicaraguan National Autonomous University, León, Nicaragua

2 Department of Clinical Sciences, Division of Psychiatry, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

3 Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Division of Epidemiology and Global Health, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Family Practice 2014, 15:129  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-129

Published: 2 July 2014



Mental health problems among young peoples are a growing public health issue around the world. In low- income countries health systems are characterized by lack of facilities, human resources and primary health care is rarely an integrated part of overall health care services. This study aims at exploring how primary health care professionals in Nicaragua perceive young people’s mental health problems, suicidal problems and help–seeking behaviour.


Twelve in-depth interviews were conducted with nurses and doctors working in primary health care services in León, Nicaragua. A qualitative research design was applied. Data was analysed using thematic analysis approach.


This study revealed that doctors and nurses were reluctant to deal with young people presenting with suicidal problems at the primary health care. This was more likely to stem from feelings of incompetence rather than from negative attitudes. Other barriers in providing appropriate care to young people with mental health problems were identified such as lack of time, lack of privacy, lack of human resources, lack of trained professionals and difficulties in communicating with young people. The primary health care (PHC) professionals suggested different solutions to improve care for young people with suicidal problems.


PHC doctors and nurses in Nicaragua felt that providing skilled mental health services to young people was a priority for them but they also identified a number of barriers to be able to do so. They discussed ways to improve young people’s willingness to share sensitive issues with them and suggested ways to make PHC more appreciated by young people.

Young people; Help seeking; Primary health care; Nicaragua; Qualitative method