Aims: The study examined actions taken by young people to deal with mental disorders and the factors associated with help-seeking and self-help behaviours.
Methods: Participants in a 2006 national survey of Australian youth (aged 12–25 years) were contacted 2 years later and participated in telephone interviews based on a vignette of one of the following disorders: depression, depression with alcohol misuse, social phobia and psychosis. Personal experiences of these disorders and subsequent self-help and help-seeking behaviours were examined.
Results: Of the 2005 participants interviewed, 275 (14%) reported experiencing a mental disorder since January 2007, most commonly depression. The most frequent sources of help were family (77%) and close friends (73%). General practitioners (GPs) were consulted by 53% of respondents. The most frequent self-help behaviours were physical activity (70%) and getting up early and out in the sunlight (46%). Beliefs about the helpfulness of interventions at baseline were compared with actual use in the following 2 years. Interventions ranked higher for beliefs about helpfulness than actual use mainly included consulting health professionals and cutting down on substance use. Interventions ranked higher for actual use than beliefs typically included lifestyle interventions but also included consulting GPs.
Conclusions: Young people with mental health problems are more likely to seek help from close friends and family and to use self-help interventions than to access professional help, although over half of survey respondents had visited a GP. Help seeking tended to be better predicted by intentions to seek help than by beliefs about the helpfulness of interventions.