Stigma and help seeking related to depression: a study of nursing students

Margaret J Halter
Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services 2004, 42 (2): 42-51
The stigmatization of people with mental illnesses and its effect on help-seeking behaviors have been identified by the Surgeon General and the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health as significant issues on the nation's health care agenda. Negative perceptions regarding depression and its treatment contribute to the 30,000 suicides committed annually in the United States. Nurses have the potential to exert tremendous influence toward overcoming this problem, contingent on their attitudes toward depression and its treatment. As nurses and future nurses, students enrolled in both a basic and degree-completion baccalaureate program comprised a sample that represented the influence of the educational process. This descriptive, correlational study measured attitudes toward an individual with depression, described in a vignette, and personal help-seeking intention, and examined the effects of personal variables on help-seeking intention. Students who believed depression was not under personal control were more likely to endorse help seeking for themselves. Individuals who were women, older, upperclassmen, and Catholic reported greater acceptance of seeking psychological help. The role of the psychiatric-mental health nursing class and rotation were identified as improving stigmatizing attitudes and increasing help-seeking intention.

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