Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Genetic Counseling

First Advisor

Victoria Vincent


Purpose: This study explored patient, parent, and/or caregiver interest in and comfort with discussing personal and/or family history of mental illness (MI) with a genetics provider during a general genetics visit.

Methods: Participants were seen for initial genetic consultation through offices of the Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC) October 8th, 2018 through January 31st, 2019.

Following the genetics appointment, participants completed a 38-item questionnaire. Results: Thirty participants completed or partially completed the questionnaire. Most participants had a child being evaluated (n=26, 87%). Overall, 26/29 participants (90%) indicated some degree of comfort with being directly or hypothetically asked about personal and/or family history of MI. Comfort did not seem to be dependent on positive or negative personal and/or family history of MI. For those who recalled a discussion about MI with the genetics provider (n = 10), 90% indicated some degree of comfort with having this discussion. For those that did not discuss MI (n = 18), 11 (61%) responded that they would be interested in discussing one or more of the provided mental health topics. Participant depression and anxiety severity measured by the PHQ-9 and GAD-7 scales, respectively, were statistically significantly different (increased) in this study’s population compared to a standardized sample (p = .012 and p = .0003).

Conclusion: These results suggest that patients, parents, and/or caregivers are interested in and comfortable with discussing personal and/or family history of MI with a genetics provider during general genetic counseling. Of note, this sample consisting mostly of caretakers of minors with disabilities or suspected genetic conditions, reported significantly more depressive and anxious symptoms compared to a general population. This result echoes previous research describing that caregivers of children with chronic conditions report more distress, stress, and worry, and poorer health outcomes and psychosocial well-being for themselves and their families when compared to control groups. This study demonstrates the importance of genetics providers addressing history of MI with patients during general genetics visits, not only to address the etiology of these conditions, but to identify individuals with psychiatric symptoms who could benefit from referral to further support services.