Perceived need for mental health treatment in a nationally representative Canadian sample

Jitender Sareen, Brian J Cox, Tracie O Afifi, Ian Clara, Bo Nancy Yu
Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie 2005, 50 (10): 643-51

OBJECTIVE: The optimal method of determining how many people in the general population need help for emotional problems remains unclear. This study aimed to examine the prevalence and correlates of self-perceived need for mental health services (that is, help seeking and perceived need) in a large, population-based sample.

METHODS: Data came from the Canadian Community Health Survey 1.2 (n = 36,816, respondent age 15 years and over, and response rate 77%). Respondents were asked whether they had sought help in the past year from any professional for emotional problems and whether they felt they needed help for emotional symptoms but had not sought treatment. The Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) was used to make DSM-IV mental disorder diagnoses.

RESULTS: The past-year prevalences of help seeking and perceived need were 8.7% and 2.9%, respectively. After adjusting for the presence of DSM-IV disorders assessed in the survey, sociodemographic factors, illness severity, social supports, and the presence of physical health conditions were associated with help seeking and perceived need. Independent of DSM diagnoses, sociodemographics, and social supports, perceived need and help seeking were associated with increased levels of distress, disability, and suicidal ideation and attempts.

CONCLUSIONS: This study illustrates that, in addition to the presence of a DSM diagnosis, the respondent's self-perceived need for mental health treatment is important in the assessment of need for mental health services in the community.

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