Objective: Sociocultural factors have been recognized as an important predictor in shaping help-seeking behaviour.
Method: We investigated attitudes of the lay public toward help-seeking for mental disorders in a population survey (n=1564) conducted in the new Laender of Germany. After presenting a vignette depicting a person either with major depression or with schizophrenia (DSM-III-R), we inquired about help-seeking recommendations. employing a qualitative approach.
Results: The lay support system plays an significant role in initially dealing with mental disorders. However, help-seeking recommendation differed for depression and schizophrenia. In depression, support from the lay system was more often considered. In schizophrenia, public opinion favoured the expert system. If primary suggestions fail the expert system is clearly favoured regardless of the disorder in question.
Conclusion: Lay public's opinion has to be taken into account of in mental health care planning to make services more acceptable to the consumer and their social network.