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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Perceived barriers and facilitators to mental health help-seeking in young people: a systematic review

Amelia Gulliver*, Kathleen M Griffiths and Helen Christensen

Author Affiliations

Centre for Mental Health Research, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

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BMC Psychiatry 2010, 10:113  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-10-113

Published: 30 December 2010

Abstract

Background

Adolescents and young adults frequently experience mental disorders, yet tend not to seek help. This systematic review aims to summarise reported barriers and facilitators of help-seeking in young people using both qualitative research from surveys, focus groups, and interviews and quantitative data from published surveys. It extends previous reviews through its systematic research methodology and by the inclusion of published studies describing what young people themselves perceive are the barriers and facilitators to help-seeking for common mental health problems.

Methods

Twenty two published studies of perceived barriers or facilitators in adolescents or young adults were identified through searches of PubMed, PsycInfo, and the Cochrane database. A thematic analysis was undertaken on the results reported in the qualitative literature and quantitative literature.

Results

Fifteen qualitative and seven quantitative studies were identified. Young people perceived stigma and embarrassment, problems recognising symptoms (poor mental health literacy), and a preference for self-reliance as the most important barriers to help-seeking. Facilitators were comparatively under-researched. However, there was evidence that young people perceived positive past experiences, and social support and encouragement from others as aids to the help-seeking process.

Conclusions

Strategies for improving help-seeking by adolescents and young adults should focus on improving mental health literacy, reducing stigma, and taking into account the desire of young people for self-reliance.