New Study Reveals What Prevents Teens from Seeking Psychological Help

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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  • Claire


    April 9th, 2013 at 3:45 AM

    I kind of wonder if the stigma about seeking help doesn’t stem for the home. If teens live in a home with parents who are hesitant about getting outside help, then it goes without saying that the teens are going to be the same way. We often reflect the same feelings about things that our parents do, but in this case there is very much a danger to this. If there is a child who needs help then I would hope that there would be no barriers to getting that help, either via it being given to them or them feeling comfortable with asking for it.

  • YaYa


    April 9th, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    It seems like when kids grow up, whatever they experience is their normal. So, if a kid is in distress, he/she very well just assume that what they are experiencing is normal and the thought of getting help probably never crosses their minds.

  • candie


    April 9th, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    my guess is lots of kids don’t even no that they can get help if there having problems. alot of them wouldn’t even no who to call for something like that.

  • Sally High

    Sally High

    April 18th, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    Yes I totally agree! That is why the adults need to step up and help the kids!

  • f brown

    f brown

    April 9th, 2013 at 8:26 AM

    I am surprised that those who parents struggled are less willing to get help. It makes sense to me that it would be just the opposite. If you saw your parents struggle for years while you were young, wouldn’t that mean you would be hyper-aware of mental health issues and want to cut your own off at the pass before they really got going and turned into full out disorders?

  • bear


    April 9th, 2013 at 8:29 AM

    Just wondering how much information is given out at high schools about mental health conditions like would anyone know they had one if they did at that age?

    Maybe if kids had more classes or something about those kinds of problems it would let them know that actually needed or help or give them some phone numbers or something to call

    I remember when I was in school there were posters in the hall with 800 numbers of folks you could call to talk about your problems and they wouldn’t tell anybody you called them. i actually called once it did help me.

  • David


    April 9th, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    Personally I think we need to do a better job letting our kids know it is okay to ask for help. I’m worried kids think they are weak or that they will be made fun of for getting help. But, the reality is that no one will know the kids are seeking help unless they personally tell other people. Kids need to know that therapists won’t tell anyone that they have called unless they pose a risk to themselves or someone else. Just talking about problems and having someone to listen can go miles to helping people navigate through the difficult teen years.

  • countless dracula

    countless dracula

    April 9th, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    the general attitude towards seeking help-that is one big factor. kids watch movies n whatever n seeking help is something for weak people. they need to be strong-even if it kills that is one message we should not give out to kids!

  • Addie


    April 9th, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    For many teenagers I think that there is that fear that a counselor will share everything that they have talked about with a parent and that is very intimidating for them. They want to go to someone whom they can trust and not feel like is going to blab all of their secrets to their parents wgom they already have a hard time talking with. I think that there has to be more education that what they say to you will remain personal and confidential, that you are there to help and not get them in trouble because I think that is what a lot of kids that age think about the most. They want to spll their guts to someone but only if they know for sure that there isn’t any danger in being reprimanded for what they say.

  • perlman


    April 10th, 2013 at 4:02 AM

    I am not sure that most teens have the state of mind to even recognize when they could use help. Personally that’s what I think that the adults in their lives need to be there for, to know when they are hurting and give them some guidance when they need it the most. Sometimes as a parent and an adult you have to take things into your own hands.

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