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The influence of stigma on young people’s help-seeking intentions and beliefs about the helpfulness of various sources of help

Abstract

Purpose

In this study, we examined whether young people’s help-seeking intentions and beliefs about the helpfulness of various sources of help are influenced by their own, and their parents’ stigmatising attitudes towards young people with mental disorders.

Methods

A national telephone survey was conducted with 3,746 Australians aged 12–25 years and 2,005 of their parents. Stigmatising attitudes, help-seeking intentions, and perceived helpfulness of various sources of help were assessed in relation to four vignettes of a young person with a mental disorder (psychosis, depression, depression with alcohol misuse or social phobia).

Results

Unlike ‘stigma perceived in others’, the ‘weak-not-sick’, ‘social distance’ and ‘dangerous/unpredictable’ dimensions of young people’s stigma were associated with both help-seeking intentions and helpfulness beliefs about various sources of help. Attributing mental disorder to a personal weakness rather than an illness was associated with less intention to seek help from a doctor and less positive beliefs about professional sources (including doctors, counsellors, and psychologists). In contrast, young adults aged 18–25 years who perceived the vignette character as more dangerous or unpredictable had greater intention to seek help from a psychiatrist and a helpline, and more positive beliefs about psychiatrists. Greater social distance was associated with less intention to seek help from informal sources and less positive beliefs about these sources. No consistent pattern of associations was found for parent stigma.

Conclusions

The findings suggest that different dimensions of youth stigma differentially influence help-seeking intentions and beliefs about the helpfulness of different sources of help.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by funding from a National Health and Medical Research Council Program Grant, beyondblue: the National Depression Initiative and the Colonial Foundation.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Author information

Correspondence to Marie B. H. Yap.

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Yap, M.B.H., Wright, A. & Jorm, A.F. The influence of stigma on young people’s help-seeking intentions and beliefs about the helpfulness of various sources of help. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 46, 1257–1265 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-010-0300-5

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Keywords

  • Young people
  • Stigma
  • Help seeking
  • Beliefs
  • Helpfulness