Objective: This study explores the factors that influence adolescents' help-seeking intentions. Specifically, the study investigates the extent to which perceived benefits of help seeking, stoicism, gender and symptoms of psychological distress are associated with intentions to seek professional help for emotional problems.
Design and setting: A cross sectional self-report questionnaire was administered to adolescents recruited from seven high schools in rural towns in the Riverina region of New South Wales.
Participants: A total of 778 adolescents were recruited. The sample included 373 male and 404 female participants between 13 and 18 years of age.
Main outcome measure(s): Participants completed an anonymous self-report questionnaire designed to measure help-seeking intentions in the advent that they were to experience emotional problems, psychological distress symptoms, perceived benefits of help seeking and stoicism.
Results: In all, 17% of male participants and 29% of female participants reported they would be likely to seek help from doctors if they were to experience emotional problems. In total, 15% of male participants and 23% of female participants reported they would be likely to seek help from other health care professionals. Multiple regression analysis suggested that adolescents are more likely to seek help from professionals if they perceive help seeking as beneficial (t = 12.91; P < 0.001). Female particpants reported that they were more likely to seek help than male participants (t = 2.69; P = 0.01).
Conclusions: Findings suggest that adolescents are reluctant to seek professional help if experiencing emotional problems, because they do not believe professional help seeking is beneficial. Improving adolescents' beliefs about the benefits of professional help seeking might be a key strategy for increasing their use of professional health services to address mental health problems