Rural adolescents reluctant to seek help for emotional problems

31 March 2011

A new study of almost 800 high school students from the Riverina region of New South Wales has
shown that rural adolescents do not believe they would benefit from seeking professional help if they
were experiencing emotional problems.
The reason, according to one of three principal researchers on the project, Janaki Rughani from the
Illawarra Institute for Mental Health at the University of Wollongong, is that most participants did not
believe that advice from a GP or some other health professional would be of benefit.
The trial was conducted by way of a self-report questionnaire completed by 373 boys and 404 girls
attending seven high schools in several rural towns. The ages of those tested ranged from 13 to 18.
The study was designed to measure the help-seeking intentions in the event that any one of the
participants was to experience emotional problems or psychological distress symptoms, and to learn
more about factors that might influence their decision on whether or not to find assistance.
“Most participants did not believe they would benefit from seeking professional help if they were
experiencing emotional problems. A caveat with this finding is that it comes from a sample of
adolescents who were not experiencing high levels of psychological distress,” Ms Rughani said.
“It is possible that adolescents who are experiencing clinical levels of psychological distress may have
a different relationship with health professions and display different help-seeking behaviours.”
Janaki Rughani, Coralie Wilson and Professor Frank Deane concluded that improving the belief
among teenagers about the benefits of seeking professional help could be a key strategy for increasing
the use of professional health services among young adults with mental health issues.
Their report Rural adolescents' help-seeking intentions for emotional problems: The influence of
perceived benefits and stoicism is available by accessing the April issue of the Australian Journal of
Rural Health (AJRH), available now online.
The Australian Journal of Rural Health is one of the world’s few peer reviewed multidisciplinary
journals about rural and remote health. It is owned by the National Rural Health Alliance. Learn
more about AJRH at http://nrha.ruralhealth.org.au/ajrh/?IntCatId=20 and access AJRH contents on
line at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1440-1584