Funded by: The R&D Division of the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency through the Translational Research Group – Mental Health

About the Project

In the UK and elsewhere, 20-25% of young people experience poor mental health, yet few seek help, which is a major barrier to early identification and intervention. Young people remain relatively dependent on adults but are often reluctant to seek help from them at times of emotional difficulty and health services may be slow in adapting to their needs. Although most young people have contact with their general practitioner (GP) at least once a year there is considerable variability in the recognition of emotional and behavioural problems in primary care, particularly when the child’s problem is not severe or if the young person is attending consultation for a physical complaint. While general practitioners are well placed to detect mental health problems and to motivate parents to obtain care, one study of London teenagers found scant understanding of the GP’s role in relation to mental illness and GP's were accorded low levels of trust.

This study forms part of a programme of research on young people and mental health in which we are seeking to develop interventions to improve service access for this population. We undertook a study among 1,673 young people aged 13-17 years, attending eight randomly selected post-primary schools in Northern Ireland, aiming to investigate adolescents’ help-seeking attitudes and behaviour.

Project Aims

The aim of the study is to establish the key determinants of positive help-seeking attitudes and behaviour among young people in Northern Ireland from a range of socio-economic backgrounds, and to lay the groundwork for further investigations into the development of suitable interventions to improve access to services for adolescents. Using a cross-sectional, mixed method design we explored various demographics, including home and family life, mental wellbeing, and help-seeking from formal and informal sources.