Public attitudes toward depression and help-seeking in four European countries baseline survey prior to the OSPI-Europe intervention

Evelien Coppens, Chantal Van Audenhove, Gert Scheerder, Ella Arensman, Claire Coffey, Susana Costa, Nicole Koburger, Katrin Gottlebe, Ricardo Gusmão, Rory O'Connor, Vita Postuvan, Marco Sarchiapone, Merike Sisask, András Székely, Christina van der Feltz-Cornelis, Ulrich Hegerl
Journal of Affective Disorders 2013 September 5, 150 (2): 320-9

BACKGROUND: Stigmatizing attitudes toward depression and toward help-seeking are important barriers for people with mental health problems to obtain adequate professional help. This study aimed to examine: (1) population attitudes toward depression and toward seeking professional help in four European countries; (2) the relation between depression stigma and attitudes toward help-seeking; (3) the relation between both attitudes and socio-demographic characteristics; and (4) differences in attitudes across countries.

METHODS: A representative general population survey (n=4011) was conducted in Germany, Hungary, Ireland, and Portugal, assessing attitudes toward depression and toward help-seeking, and a number of socio-demographic variables.

RESULTS: Respondents showed a moderate degree of personal stigma toward depression and a strikingly higher degree of perceived stigma. Although a substantial majority showed openness to seek professional help, only half of the people perceived professional help as valuable. More negative attitudes were found in Hungary and were associated with male gender, older age, lower educational level and living alone. Also, personal stigma was related to less openness to and less perceived value of professional treatment.

LIMITATIONS: The survey was cross-sectional, so no causal inferences could be drawn.

CONCLUSIONS: Personal and perceived stigma toward depression deserves public health attention, since they impact upon the intention of people with depression to seek professional help. Public media campaigns should focus on the credibility of the mental health care sector, and target males, older people, and those with a lower educational level and living alone. The content of each campaign should be adapted to the cultural norms of the country for which it is intended.

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