Mothers are often the first people to initiate treatment for adolescent psychological problems. For teenage girls, mothers represent a unique link between child and healthcare. Often, mothers are the parents who first recognize changes in behaviors and emotional responses in their daughters. They are also more frequently responsible for communication with teachers and school staff members. Therefore, mothers’ perceptions of help seeking for psychological issues has a significant influence on the help-seeking behaviors of daughters as well as the outcome of their daughters’ mental well-being.
Ilse J. Flink of the Department of Public Health at the University Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands wanted to better understand how mothers’ perceptions of help-seeking helped or hindered mental health care in adolescent girls. She also wanted to determine if ethnicity played a role in these perceptions. Using a sample of 41 ethnically diverse mothers of teenage girls, Flink gathered information related to maternal education, use of mental health services, fears and concerns, and daughters’ internalizing behaviors. She found that among the Turkish and Moroccan (minority) mothers, there were unique fears concerning stigma and gossip. These same fears did not emerge among the Dutch (majority) mothers.
Flink also discovered that the Dutch mothers believed that the school should play a more prominent role in the mental health assessment and care of their daughters. With respect to specific internalizing problems, all the mothers were similarly concerned about their children’s depression, anxiety, and eating issues. However, the minority mothers did not rate confidentiality between daughter and caregiver as high, while the Dutch mothers did. Additionally, the minority mothers were primarily Muslim. Flink believes that religious beliefs could influence the perceptions these mothers have toward psychological treatment. And even though these mothers rated suicide and other negative outcomes as salient concerns, the low importance the mothers attached to confidentiality could cause the minority daughters to avoid seeking help from their mothers or others. In sum, all of the mothers in this study believed that their daughters should first come to them with psychological concerns. “Hereafter other forms of informal care could be sought,” said Flink. These results underscore the importance of enlisting parents and teachers and educating them about the stigmas, symptoms, and treatment options for young girls with internalizing behaviors.
Flink, I.J.E. (2013). The role of maternal perceptions and ethnic background in the mental Health help-seeking pathway of adolescent girls. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health 15.2 (2013): 292-99. Print.
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