Individuals in need of psychological help often do not seek the care they need because they are afraid of disclosing their mental health problems, are unsure of the outcome of treatment, or are concerned with the stigma associated with mental health interventions. Mental health organizations have devised creative and subtle methods to overcome these barriers, including print media, television ads, and other community-based campaigns. Amy L. Demyan of the Department of Psychology at Ohio University wanted to find out if these types of programs were effective at increasing help-seeking and recently led a study examining how college students’ treatment attitudes and intentions were affected after viewing a television intervention.
The goal of Demyan’s study was to develop an intervention that would help individuals overcome their negative beliefs with respect to treatment. For her study, Demyan enlisted 228 college students and had them view programming with and without a public service–style announcement designed to address the barriers. She found that overall, the intervention did not positively influence the participants’ beliefs about treatment; however, it did change their attitudes. Specifically, Demyan discovered that the participants who had been in treatment before were more likely to seek treatment again after viewing the intervention. Interestingly, this finding was even more evident in participants with the highest levels of distress. The results also revealed that women had more positive beliefs and attitudes with respect to treatment, but men sought treatment more than the women in the study.
Demyan believes that these results support previous literature but also provide new insight into the complicated views that individuals have about treatment. Community programs and clinicians may consider working harder to address issues pertaining to help-seeking in men and women with no previous treatment experience. She added, “Efforts to better understand the underlying mechanisms in the help-seeking attitudes and intentions of distressed men with past help-seeking behavior could potentially lead to more effective interventions tailored to the unique needs of the male subpopulation.”
Demyan, A. L., & Anderson, T. (2012). Effects of a Brief Media Intervention on Expectations, Attitudes, and Intentions of Mental Health Help Seeking. Journal of Counseling Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026541
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