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Help-seeking behaviour of depressed students


  • O'Neil, Mary Kay
  • Lancee, William J.
  • Freeman, Stanley J. J.


Depression, the most common form of psychological distress among university students, is often serious enough to warrant professional help but only a minority of depressed students seek formal help. This paper reports on the characteristics which differentiate two groups of depressed students--the help-seekers from the non-help-seekers. A university psychiatric clinic population (N = 183) was compared with a non-clinic sample (N = 55). Data about depressive symptoms, social supports, the use of medical, psychiatric and other helping services, sources of referral and the usual demographic and sociocultural information were obtained. The Beck Depression Inventory was used as the measure of depression. Severity of depression was the single most important predictor of use of the psychiatric service. In addition, being female was also an important predictor. After controlling for severity and sex, the demographic factors which distinguished help-seekers from non-help-seekers were as follows: The help-seekers were more likely to be graduate students, older, living away from family and/or to use a non-psychiatric physician. Contrary to expectation, having a confidant was not related to help-seeking, suggesting that the presence of a confidant may be preventive but does not necessarily decrease the need for professional help once a student has become depressed. A depressed student's decision to seek help may be influenced by four factors: the severity of the problem; the individul's propensity to seek help; the availability of alternate resources; and the accessibility of psychiatric services. The findings are discussed in the light of these factors.

Suggested Citation

  • O'Neil, Mary Kay & Lancee, William J. & Freeman, Stanley J. J., 1984. "Help-seeking behaviour of depressed students," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 511-514, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:18:y:1984:i:6:p:511-514

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