Teen Help-Seeking for Mental Health Problems

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

This episode explores where adolescents and young adults go to seek help for mental health issues and what stops them from pursuing services.

We are featuring a journal article titled Where would young people seek help for mental disorders and what stops them? The authors surveyed over 3000 Australians between the ages of 15 to 25 years old to see what barriers exist for help-seeking of mental health services for a range of psychological disorders.

The authors found that family members are the ones that young people typically turn to first for help. Regarding health professionals, young people were more likely to turn to pediatricians and general medical practitioners first.

However, only 10% of those surveyed indicated that nothing would stop them from seeking out help. Most indicated that the stigma surrounding mental health issues would stop them from pursuing help. The most common barriers to receiving help were embarrassment and concern that the helper would feel negatively about them.

The authors indicated that younger adolescents and males were more likely to avoid asking for help due to embarrassment. If they did seek out help, it tended to be from informal sources such as family and friends rather than formal sources. However if young people had been exposed to family members seeking out professional help, then the young people were more open and more likely to seek out professional help themselves.

The takeaway is that most adolescents and young adults perceive significant barriers in seeking help for mental health problems particularly younger adolescents and males. These barriers need to be addressed in the schools where the issue of mental illness can be discussed and normalized among students. The repeated exposure to the topic can reduce the stigma attached to having a mental disorder and will increase adolescent and young adults’ willingness to seek out help.


Yap, M.B.H., Reavley, N., & Jorm, A.F. (2013). Where would young people seek help for mental disorders and what stops them? Findings from an Australian national survey. Journal of Affective Disorders, 147, 255-261.


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