Role of stigma and attitudes toward help-seeking from a general practitioner for mental health problems in a rural town

Sarah Wrigley, Henry Jackson, Fiona Judd, Angela Komiti
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 2005, 39 (6): 514-21

OBJECTIVE: To examine the role of perceived stigma and attitudes to seeking care in predicting help-seeking from a general practitioner (GP) for mental health problems.

METHOD: A cross-sectional survey in 2002 with self-report questionnaires assessing current levels of symptomatology, disability, attitudes towards mental illness, knowledge of prevalence and causes of mental illness, contact with mental illness and help-seeking behaviour and preferences and attitudes toward seeking professional psychological help.

RESULTS: No significant relationship was found between symptom measures and measures of disability and help-seeking. Variables positively associated with general attitudes to seeking professional psychological help were: lower perceived stigma, and biological rather than person-based causal attributions for schizophrenia. Willingness to discuss mental health issues with a GP was predicted by the perceived helpfulness of the GP and by no other variable.

CONCLUSIONS: Causal attributions and perceived stigma rather than participants' levels of symptomatology and disability influence attitudes to help-seeking for mental health issues. Efforts to improve attitudes to help-seeking should focus on reducing stigma and improving mental health literacy regarding the causes of disorders.

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