Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

A Moderator Analysis of the Relationship between Mental Health Help-Seeking Attitudes and Behaviours among Young Adults/Analyse Modératrice De la Relation Entre Les Attitudes et Les Comportements De Recherche D'aide En Santé Mentale Chez Les Jeunes Adultes

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

A Moderator Analysis of the Relationship between Mental Health Help-Seeking Attitudes and Behaviours among Young Adults/Analyse Modératrice De la Relation Entre Les Attitudes et Les Comportements De Recherche D'aide En Santé Mentale Chez Les Jeunes Adultes

Article excerpt

Within the next 20 years, mental health problems are projected to be the leading cause of disability in Canada (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2011); as a result, mental health has emerged as a national priority (Kirby & Keon, 2006), culminating with the recent release of Canadas first national mental health strategy (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2012). As most mental disorders have an onset prior to age 24, young adults are highly at risk for developing mental health problems (Kessler, Chiu, Dernier, & Walters, 2005). What is particularly alarming is that despite having higher prevalence rates of mental health problems, young adults constitute the cohort least likely to seek mental health services (Statistics Canada, 2011). This has spurred specific interest in identifying factors that influence help-seeking by young adults with mental health problems, including the Mental Health Commission of Canada's (2009) Opening Minds program that aims to reduce mental health stigma among Canadian youth, and the Mobilizing Minds (2011) initiative designed to identify and reduce barriers to accessing mental health services for young adults in Canada.

In line with this, postsecondary institutions across Canada are acknowledging increased awareness of mental health problems among their students (Hanlon, 2012), which has garnered considerable media attention and a range of proposed solutions (e.g., CBC News, 2012; Craggs, 2012; Reavley, McCann, & Jorm, 2012; Vanheusden et ah, 2009). To illustrate the extent to which mental health issues prevail on Canadian postsecondary campuses, results from a survey at six Ontario postsecondary institutions revealed that approximately 53% of students indicated they felt overwhelmed by anxiety and 36% felt so depressed it was difficult for them to function (Clapham, Jahchan, Medves, Tierney, & Walker, 2012). In addition to this, a survey of 950 McMaster University undergraduate students revealed that one third of these students reported battling depression but did not seek help for their mental health problems until it started to affect their schoolwork (Craggs, 2012). Previous research shows that this delay in help-seeking behaviour is to be expected in the young adult population (Statistics Canada, 2003; Wang et al., 2005), and helps to underscore the importance of increasing service utilization as a means to reduce rates of mental health problems and increase positive mental health among this vulnerable population.

Although many variables play a role in service utilization, including resource accessibility (De Jong et ah, 2012), mental health knowledge and treatment preferences (Stewart, 2010; Stewart et ah, 2014), and a range of psychological factors (Stewart et ah, 2012; Stewart & Ritchot, 2010), it is likely that these latter variables may exert a particularly strong influence on mental health helpseeking by young adults (cf. Eisenberg, Downs, Golberstein, & Zivin, 2009; Hunt & Eisenberg, 2010). To explore this possibility, we investigated whether psychological factors moderate the relationship between young adults' helpseeking attitudes and help-seeking behaviours. More specifically, we assessed whether mental health attitudes and experiences (self-stigma, mental health literacy, and level of familiarity with mental health problems), symptom acuity (level of distress x severity of symptoms), and psychological fortitude influenced the relationship between help-seeking attitudes and help-seeking behaviours among a cohort of young adults.

MENTAL HEALTH ATTITUDES AND EXPERIENCES

One in five Canadians develop a mental disorder in their lifetime (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2013), which suggests that a person's likelihood of encountering a mental health problem-whether it is their own problem or that of a family member, friend, or co-worker-is quite high. Level of familiarity, defined in this context as a person's knowledge of and experience with mental health problems (Corrigan, Edwards, Green, Diwan, & Penn, 2001), has been shown to be highly associated with attitudes about people diagnosed with a mental health problem (Holmes, Corrigan, Williams, Cañar, & Kubiak, 1999; Link & Cullen, 1986; Penn et ah, 1994). …

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