Date of Award

Winter 2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Menna, Rosanne

Keywords

Psychology, Health and environmental sciences, Adolescents, Coping, Help seeking, Mental health, Therapy

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

Adolescents' perceptions and responses to mental health problems have been shown to have significant implications for their future competence, coping skills, well-being, and subsequent life choices; yet, as few as 25 percent of young Canadians with mental health problems seek help (Bergeron, Poirier, Fournier, Roberge, & Barrette, 2005). The purpose of this study was to examine the stages of adolescent help seeking (i.e., recognizing the problem, deciding to seek professional help, and seeking professional help ) to better understand why some adolescents seek help and others do not. Specific predisposing, enabling, and need factors were examined as predictors of adolescents' and parents' behaviour across the three stages of help seeking. Participants completed on-line questionnaires assessing help-seeking stages, barriers to help seeking, help-seeking attitudes, family functioning, parental stress, and symptomatology. After data screening procedures, the sample consisted of 175 adolescents and 95 parents from the Windsor-Essex community; of these participants, 21 parent-adolescent dyads were formed. Regression analyses showed that being female and perceiving mental health problems to be severe significantly improved the likelihood that an adolescent would recognize their mental health problem (Stage 1). Further, higher perceptions of problem severity and prior professional help seeking significantly improved the likelihood that an adolescent would decide to help seek (Stage 2) and actually seek professional help (Stage 3). These findings are consistent with the study's hypotheses. With regards to parental help seeking, parents' worry and concern for adolescents with mental health problems significantly improved the likelihood that a parent would recognize adolescent mental health problems (Stage 1) and decide to seek professional help for the adolescent (Stage 2). Finally, parent-reported prior family professional help seeking significantly improved the likelihood of parents actually seeking professional help for adolescent mental health problems (Stage 3). Given the limited number of parent-adolescent dyads, the researcher was limited with regards to statistical analyses that could be performed; however, the results lend support to the idea that an adolescent and parent from the same family are likely to be in similar stages of help seeking. The results suggest that family cohesion, flexibility, and communication may have an indirect effect on adolescent help seeking by contributing to an adolescent being more or less vulnerable to mental health problems. Implications for increasing adolescent help seeking and improving adolescents' and parents' access to professional resources are discussed.

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