Adolescent Mental Health Help-Seeking from Family and Doctors: Applying the Theory of Planned Behaviour to the Northern Ireland Schools and Wellbeing Study

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Abstract

Background: Adolescent mental illness is of increasing concern, with prevalence increasing especially in females in the United Kingdom. While service-related barriers can deter help-seeking, the role of family support and engagement in family activities, and attitudes towards seeking help from a doctor has received little attention. Studies exploring help-seeking from family and medical practitioners have done so without incorporating theories of behaviour change. This study aims to develop a model of adolescent help-seeking using the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB). Method: A cross-sectional survey of 1639 male and females aged 13–17 years in Northern Ireland. Structural Equation Modelling determined fit for TBP factors, with the addition of gender, experience of mental health issues, and engagement in family activities. Results: The Structural Equation Model suggests an adequate description of the relationships between TPB variables [χ 2(639) = 8302.36, p <.001; RMSEA = 0.09; SRMR = 0.06; CFI = 0.92; IFI = 0.92], with significant variance (R 2) of up to 61% (Intentions to Seek Help from Family) and 24% (Intention to Seek Help from Medical Professionals) explained. Males (compared to females) reported a more supportive family life, fewer mental health problems, more trust in doctors, less prosocial behaviour, more confidence discussing mental health with a doctor, and greater intentions to seek family or medical professional help when having emotional/mental health problems. Conclusions: When supporting adolescent’s gender, engagement with family and trust in doctors should be considered, especially where they have experienced mental health issues and may be less willing to seek help.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalChild Care in Practice
Early online date20 May 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 May 2021

Keywords

  • Mental health
  • general practitioners
  • help-seeking
  • self-harm
  • suicide

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