Adolescents are vulnerable to peer pressures, social norms, and judgments by those in their social network. At a time when these individuals are trying to develop their own identities, they often avoid doing anything that will disrupt that process. Experiencing symptoms of mental illness can be frightening for adolescents. They may not understand what is happening to them, perhaps believing that their emotional state is merely a normal part of the transition from child to adult. They may have already watched a family member with similar symptoms struggle and are unsure if they want to acknowledge they too are having the same difficulties. Internal perceptions and external influences all effect whether an adolescent will seek help for mental health concerns.
Marie Bee Hui Yap wanted to better understand the specific barriers teens face with respect to help-seeking. Therefore, Yap recently conducted a survey of over 3,000 adolescents and young adults to determine their attitudes toward help-seeking. The participants were presented with a scenario in which a young adult had depression with another condition, including posttraumatic stress (PTSD), psychosis, alcohol abuse, social phobia, or suicidal ideation. She evaluated what factors were reported as being the most prohibitive to help-seeking in the participants and found that those who were extremely shy or embarrassed about their symptoms had reservations about seeking help for their problems. Also, the participants who had experienced watching a friend or loved one go through a similar situation were less likely to get help than those who had no family or personal history.
Age of respondent and gender had some influence, but the effect of these factors could also be related to personal experience, history, and type of condition presented to them. In other words, girls who have anxiety and depression and whose parent also struggle with that may be more averse to getting help than boys whose parents had no history of mental illness. Because there are several factors in this analysis that could sway help-seeking attitudes, additional work should dissect these influences in order to determine their unique effects on help-seeking behaviors. Yap added, “Findings can facilitate the targeting of future efforts to improve young people’s help seeking for mental disorders by highlighting the barriers that are more relevant for specific disorders, sources of help and personal characteristics.”
Bee Hui Yap, Marie, Nicola Reavley, and Anthony Francis Jorm. (2013). Where would young people seek help for mental disorders and what stops them? Findings from an Australian National Survey. Journal of Affective Disorders 147.1 (2013): 255-61. Print.
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