How do Causal Beliefs about Mental Illness Influence Help-Seeking Stigma and Help-Seeking Among Commencing University Students?

Brown, P. M. (The University of Canberra), Kinraid, C. (The University of Canberra)

Australian tertiary students report high levels of psychological distress, with the transition to university representing a stressful life event for many. Despite this, recent research indicates that a large proportion of students who experience psychological distress are not seeking formal help. One possible reason for this is the perceived stigma (both public and self) attached to both mental illness and to seeking help for a mental illness. The mixed blessings model (Haslam & Kvaale, 2015) argues that the types of beliefs held about the causes of mental illness can influence stigma. Specifically, beliefs based on biogenetic causes may result in reduced public stigma because of reduced blame. However, for those with a mental illness, biogenetic causal beliefs may increase pessimism regarding prognosis and, consequently, reduce help-seeking. To test the relationships between causal beliefs, help-seeking stigma and help seeking, we surveyed university students commencing their first semester of study. Students’ beliefs about the causes of mental illness were measured, along with the stigma of psychological help-seeking (both public and self), attitudes to psychological help-seeking and willingness to seek help. A follow-up survey measured help-seeking behaviour. Results will be discussed with respect to implications for promoting help-seeking among this population.; Twitter: @DrTriciaBrown

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