Changing intentions to seek mental health services through social influence and education
MetadataShow full item record
Although research has shown that mental health interventions are effective, many people who are afflicted with a mental disorder or emotional distress do not seek services (e.g., Wang et al., 2005). Perceived stigma, the belief that an individual will be devalued and discriminated against for seeking psychological assistance, is a barrier to seeking mental health services, as some people avoid these services in order to avoid the associated stigma. Another barrier to mental health service utilization is mental health literacy, which refers to how well-versed people are in information regarding mental illness and treatment (Jorm et al., 1997). Low levels of mental health literacy may inhibit people from seeking help as they may not recognize their need for services and may not be aware that effective services are available. The first of two studies examined a social influence intervention aimed at reducing perceived stigma and increasing intentions to seek counselling. One hundred and sixty-six undergraduate students watched videos of ingroup or outgroup speakers discussing their non-stigmatizing experience with therapy or speakers discussing a control topic. No significant differences were found between the groups after the intervention. The second study investigated an educational intervention aimed at improving mental health knowledge and increasing intentions to seek counselling. One hundred and fifty-five undergraduate participants listened to either a control lecture or a lecture about mental illness and treatment with or without a testimonial by the lecturer about her positive experience with therapy. The participants who listened to the lecture and testimonial had higher relevant mental health knowledge and intentions to seek counselling compared to the control condition. No differences were found between the education only and control conditions on intentions to seek counselling. The main finding of this project was that a combination of social influence and educational approaches has the most potential of improving intentions to seek mental health services, as each of these components does not appear to be effective independently.