Receptiveness to help-Sseeking influence: Implications for mental health help-seeking by youth

Presentation First Author: 
Alexander Stretton

Introduction: Utilisation of mental health services by young people aged 16-24 experiencing mental health difficulties remains of concern to researchers, practitioners and policy makers worldwide. Given that the age of onset for mood disorders is primarily in those aged below 24 (Ormel et al., 2014) it is of critical importance that young people seek help early on, before symptoms escalate. The influence of social and familial circles on decisions to seek help have been identified as important (Wahlin & Deane, 2012), and there is significant expenditure on media campaigns in promoting help-seeking behaviours (Evans-Lacko et al., 2013). While research is emerging on the social influences driving help-seeking by youth who have sought help (Rickwood et al., 2015), there is a paucity of research on young people’s receptiveness to social and media influence, particularly for those young people who may not have accessed mental health help.

Objectives: A key aim of this study was to explore young people’s receptiveness to influence of others on formal help-seeking intentions. It is hoped the knowledge generated can help shape future mental health help-seeking initiatives and educative programs directed at not only those experiencing mental illness, but also the support networks around that individual.

Methodology: The study involved an online survey (n = 243) with a sample of Australian youth aged 16-24. The survey explored help-seeking influence, stigma, attitudes and intentions. Structural equation modelling was used to analyse the data.

Results: The overall model of youth help-seeking evidenced good fit with the data. The effect of help-seeking influence on formal help-seeking intentions was mediated by attitudes toward seeking help. The direct effect of help-seeking stigma on intentions was non-significant, however a significant indirect effect through help-seeking influence was observed. Greater self-stigma of seeking help may reduce a young person’s receptiveness to outside influence.

Conclusions: Educative programs that focus on reducing stigma of help-seeking may increase a young person’s receptiveness to help-seeking influence. The present study suggests that campaigns directed at peer and familial networks that encourage supporting a friend or family member through the help-seeking process may result in increased help-seeking rates, contingent upon the whether the individual believes seeking help will be of benefit to them. Finally, the finding that help-seeking stigma had no direct effect on help-seeking intentions is important to consider when designing mental health interventions.

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Date of Presentation: 
9th Oct 2015
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