Background: This study examined whether adolescents who were at various stages of the help-seeking process differed on demographic characteristics, use of informal helpers, and markers of emotional and behavioral adjustment.
Method: Youths (N = 644; Grades 7–12) living in three rural communities completed a survey at school. Three comparisons were made: teenagers who reported having serious problems versus few or no problems in the past year; teenagers who felt that they did or did not need professional help with these problems; and teenagers who had or had not sought professional help.
Results: Rural youths with serious problems were more likely to be girls and to be living with someone other than a parent, were less likely to talk to family members about problems, and reported more negative emotional and behavioral adjustment. Teenagers who perceived a need for professional help also reported poorer emotional and behavioral adjustment. Adolescents who sought professional help were more likely to be in senior high, were less likely to talk to others about problems, and were lower on anxiety.
Conclusions: Rural adolescents’ demographic characteristics, use of informal helpers, and markers of emotional and behavioral adjustment each contribute to our understanding of their help-seeking behavior. Future studies must examine how these and other variables combine to discern who reports problems, who perceives a need for help, and who sees professionals.