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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A systematic review of help-seeking interventions for depression, anxiety and general psychological distress

Amelia Gulliver*, Kathleen M Griffiths, Helen Christensen and Jacqueline L Brewer

Author Affiliations

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

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BMC Psychiatry 2012, 12:81  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-12-81

Published: 16 July 2012

Abstract

Background

Depression and anxiety are treatable disorders, yet many people do not seek professional help. Interventions designed to improve help-seeking attitudes and increase help-seeking intentions and behaviour have been evaluated in recent times. However, there have been no systematic reviews of the efficacy or effectiveness of these interventions in promoting help-seeking. Therefore, this paper reports a systematic review of published randomised controlled trials targeting help-seeking attitudes, intentions or behaviours for depression, anxiety, and general psychological distress.

Methods

Studies were identified through searches of PubMed, PsycInfo, and the Cochrane database in November 2011. Studies were included if they included a randomised controlled trial of at least one intervention targeting help-seeking for depression or anxiety or general psychological distress, and contained extractable data on help-seeking attitudes or intentions or behaviour. Studies were excluded if they focused on problems or conditions other than the target (e.g., substance use, eating disorder).

Results

Six published studies of randomised controlled trials investigating eight different interventions for help-seeking were identified. The majority of trials targeted young adults. Mental health literacy content was effective (d = .12 to .53) in improving help-seeking attitudes in the majority of studies at post-intervention, but had no effect on help-seeking behaviour (d = −.01, .02). There was less evidence for other intervention types such as efforts to destigmatise or provide help-seeking source information.

Conclusions

Mental health literacy interventions are a promising method for promoting positive help-seeking attitudes, but there is no evidence that it leads to help-seeking behaviour. Further research investigating the effects of interventions on attitudes, intentions, and behaviour is required.