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Open Access Research article

Building a model for encouraging help-seeking for depression: a qualitative study in a Chinese society

Alison KY Hui1, Paul WC Wong2 and King-wa Fu1*

  • * Corresponding author: King-wa Fu

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

2 Department of Social Work and Social Administration, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

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BMC Psychology 2014, 2:9  doi:10.1186/2050-7283-2-9

Published: 7 April 2014



Clinical depression has been increasingly prevalent in international health statistics but people are often found to be reluctant to seek help when they encounter depression. However, there is no general theory to explain how personal, social and cultural factors affect an individual’s help-seeking intention, nor to guide the design of preventive programmes for such intention once needed.


Drawing on the theory of planned behavior, we deployed the illness narrative approach and interviewed 18 participants in Hong Kong.


With the diverse results we gathered from the interviews, a behavioral model was built to conceptualize the interplays of various factors in shaping one’s help-seeking intention and behavior for depression. Participants appeared to have a limited view of treatment options and had diverse views of the symptoms of depression, both of which profoundly affected their motivation to seek help.


The role of family and friends and a holistic approach to mental health education were found to be particularly important for encouraging help-seeking behavior in future campaigns concerning depression.