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What Prevents People from Seeking Help for Depression?

A web-based survey aims to identify the factors associated with reluctance in pursuing professional psychiatric help for depression.

Depressive disorders are a growing public health concern. While strides have been made in diagnosing and treating these illnesses, getting those afflicted the initial treatment needed remains a challenge. In order to identify the triggers that lead to seeking professional help, Japanese researchers recently created an online survey to identify the barriers that prevent those who are at-risk from seeking help for depression.

This cross-sectional study, published in BMC Research Notes, surveyed 595 participants including 268 males and 327 females. The study took place between December 2010 and February 2011 and included adults who experienced depressive symptoms for six months and had no prior depression treatment. The study identified some common triggers such as work, family, and financial issues, physical illness, or family separation.

Among the participants, 329 (55.3%) of the respondents indicated that they would not be willing to seek professional help at all for depression, while 266 (44.7%) reported that they would consider help in some form.  An unwillingness to seek help was associated with older males and those with financial issues. In fact, financial difficulties are strongly associated with an unwillingness to seek help and are also the second leading cause of suicide in Japan. Problems with interpersonal relationships, in contrast, was associated with an increased likelihood of seeking professional guidance. The results showed that internet users with depression were more likely to seek psychotherapy than medication to treat their depression.

The group sampled, while large, may not be as inclusive of certain demographics; for instance, the elderly who may have difficulty using the technology necessary to take part in a study like this would underrepresent. Even differences in socioeconomic status may be skewed as those with higher education leads to the early adoption of information technology and use. The strength of the study is the substantial number of participants included who would otherwise not be reached by mental health researchers or providers. It is these people who are the target population.

While the present data is promising in determining factors for what motivates people to seek professional help, further investigation with wider parameters is needed to paint a better picture of mental health assistance. The results suggest that financial difficulty and the reader’s need for psychotherapy should be taken into account when designing internet-based prevention and treatment programs for depression.

Written by Cooper Powers, BSc

Reference: Yoshikawa, E., Taniguchi, T., Nakamura-Taira, N., Ishiguro, S., Matsumura, H. (2017). Factors associated with unwillingness to seek professional help for depression: a web-based survey. BMC Research Notes 10(673).

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