Knowledge about Mental Health Increases Likelihood of Seeking Help

Understanding and awareness of mental health issues greatly influences a person’s choice to seek treatment. Researchers from Kings College in London, examined a survey from the United Kingdom Department of Health to determine if tolerance of and personal experience with mental health issues would affect a person’s willingness to seek help if they needed it. The participants were questioned regarding their knowledge of mental health and their attitudes about certain challenges, and were also asked if they knew someone with a mental health issue. The researchers focused their attention on the participants who said that if they experienced a mental health problem, they would seek treatment. This same group expressed a higher level of support for community-based care for those in need. Additionally, this group of participants appeared to have opinions and answers that reflected the most tolerance toward those with mental health issues. This group, made up of generally older participants, also had a better understanding of treatment options. The research also showed that women were more willing to seek treatment or share their mental health issues with family members, than men.

The research revealed that people who had personal contact with someone suffering from a mental health issue also had more knowledge about mental health in general. They also supported community based care, however, they were not necessarily more likely to get help themselves or disclose their problems to family members or friends. Those participants who expressed prejudice were most often the least informed about mental health and also had the least amount of contact with someone who had a mental health challenge. “Knowledge of mental illness and treatments was the strongest predictor of both help-seeking and disclosure, a finding that underlines the role of mental health literacy in influencing reactions to developing a mental illness,” said the research team, which was led by Nicolas Rusch, M.D.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Georgina Rowland

    Georgina Rowland

    June 5th, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    God bless the internet for keeping us and our loved ones more informed than ever! I have never liked having to take what any doctor says as gospel. Until the web became a reality, I had no choice. Now I do.

    And being able to show them what the facts are related to a mental health condition and the symptoms that match up to yours is very empowering.

  • brendan j. flannigan

    brendan j. flannigan

    June 5th, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    Sometime I feel doctors must long for the days when patients came in for appointments empty-handed rather than clutching a pile of stuff they printed from websites.

    I’ve posed that question to a couple of them and both gave me very different responses: one was appreciative that the patient had taken the time to research and learn about their conditions and even in some cases discover new treatment options that he wasn’t aware of. He did note he always warns them to be aware of how many scam sites are out there promising miracle cures too.

    The other didn’t like non-professionals “dabbling” as he calls it because they didn’t always see the bigger picture which he did according to him.

    Me, I’d want to see the first guy every time that was open to it. I think him being younger made him less suspicious of the internet.

  • Jon Smith

    Jon Smith

    June 6th, 2011 at 4:26 AM

    As is usually the case the more that you know about something the less fear that you will have of it. I happen to think that a lot of times no matter what is going on with someone if they are afraid and have no knowledge of how something works, then they tend to avoid it and think that it will go away. But those who have a little familiarity with something then they are naturally more willing to seek help and do not seem to be as fearful of the things that they do not know. The old saying that knowledge is power still holds very true.

  • Rene

    Rene

    June 6th, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    Awareness is a weapon that can help you survive in an environment…If you are not aware of things you’re just gonna be running around but if do then things become so much more easier…

  • Marjorie G.

    Marjorie G.

    June 6th, 2011 at 10:00 PM

    @brendan j. flannigan -You would think patients being more knowledgeable would be a good thing in a doctor’s eyes. At least I would think so.

    It makes the whole relationship more of a co-operative one. I think the problem for the second doctor there is not so much that they are “dabbling” but that his ego needs reined in, nothing more.

  • L.Michaels

    L.Michaels

    June 6th, 2011 at 11:55 PM

    I agree that knowledge about health topics can help you. If you have a problem and know about it or have read about it you obviously are more likely to seek help because otherwise you might just ignore the problem…

  • InZane

    InZane

    June 7th, 2011 at 4:40 AM

    When we know about the possibilities that life has to offer, don’t we then explore a little more and find the things that make us happy and fulfilled? The same thing is true with anything and that includes mental health issues. The more open and free that we feel we can be with both giving and receiving information then the better prepared that we are going to be for anything in this realm that comes our way. Contrary to popular belief, ignorance is not bliss, people.

  • Wren

    Wren

    June 7th, 2011 at 11:59 PM

    L.Michaels:Not only do you know and are able to identify by you also know about it’s effects and are in a mch better position to take preventive action a.k.a seekin treatment!

    And that is exactly why I love reading about health topics-the same reason why I’m on this site! :)

  • Leila Gibbs

    Leila Gibbs

    June 9th, 2011 at 12:48 AM

    Rather obvious statement there I feel. If you know how bad a mental illness can get, you’re more likely to seek out help before it consumes you completely.

    It’s only logical that understanding it makes you react more appropriately and speedily too.

  • Kyle Hood

    Kyle Hood

    June 11th, 2011 at 8:55 PM

    Yes, nowadays, a person will feel a lump and see their doctor to make sure it’s not cancer. They will go online and check photo galleries and go through symptom checkers to prepare themselves for the possibilities.

    One who is oblivious to what cancer looks like or the symptoms are will feel it and not do anything until it triples in size and starts spreading all over their bodies.

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