Help-seeking preferences and behaviours amongst young Australians: Results from a large nationally representative cross-sectional study

Presentation First Author: 
Atari Metcalf

This presentation reports key findings about current help-seeking behaviours in young Australians from a wider nationally representative cross-sectional survey of 1,000 young people aged 16-25 years conducted in late 2014. Past research has found help-seeking rates amongst young people experiencing mental health problems to be unacceptably low, despite the high prevalence of mental health problems experienced by young people in Australia. In 2007, the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing reported that one in four young Australians were experiencing mental health problems, but that more than 70% of those had not accessed any forms of professional help. This is a major public health concern, as seeking help early in symptom development is critical to reducing both the severity and duration of mental health problems. However, there has been limited national data about young people’s help-seeking published since 2007, making it difficult to assess whether efforts to increase help-seeking rates have had any impact.

Data about help-seeking was collected as part of a wider cross-sectional survey evaluating public awareness of recent marketing campaigns conducted by, an online youth mental health service. The study therefore offered a timely opportunity to assess current help-seeking behaviours and preferences for a variety of formal and informal sources of support, including online and telephone based services. Data about young people’s cultural background, geographical remoteness, sexual orientation and current levels of psychological distress were also collected in order to explore the extent to which past help-seeking behaviours and/or future help-seeking intentions might vary across different population groups.

Levels of psychological distress amongst study participants was comparable with recent Australian population health surveys and highest amongst same sex attracted young people. Most young people who were experiencing high levels of psychological distress at the time of participating in the study had not previously sought help from professional sources. Differences in help-seeking patterns were also observed between different population groups. The majority of respondents reported that they would prefer to seek help from family, friends and online sources if they were experiencing emotional or personal problems.

The study findings offer a timely, updated snapshot of help-seeking amongst Australian young people. Young people’s preferences for social and online sources of help reinforce the importance of building mental health literacy in the wider community and the importance of accessible, evidence-based mental health information and services online.

Conference Name: 
Date of Presentation: 
9th Oct 2015
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