Identifying barriers to mental health help-seeking among young adults in the UK: a cross-sectional survey

Keziban Salaheddin, Barbara Mason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)
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Background Despite the high prevalence and burden of mental health problems among young people, studies have suggested that they infrequently seek professional help. Understanding the barriers to help-seeking is an important step towards facilitating early access to mental health services and improving psychological wellbeing.

Aim To investigate why young adults may choose not to seek any support for an emotional or mental health difficulty.

Design and setting A cross-sectional online survey of young adults aged 18–25 from the general UK population.

Method The survey consisted of an anonymous questionnaire that measured psychological distress, help-seeking preferences, and barriers to accessing help, which included the Barriers to Access to Care Evaluation (BACE) scale and an open-ended question to explore reasons for not seeking help in the past. Qualitative feedback was analysed using thematic analysis.

Results Overall, 35% of participants (n = 45) who reported having an emotional or mental health difficulty did not seek any formal or informal help. The thematic analysis revealed that stigmatising beliefs, difficulty identifying or expressing concerns, a preference for self-reliance, and difficulty accessing help were prominent barrier themes among responders.

Conclusion Young adults experiencing psychological distress may struggle to access help from others. Stigma and negative perceptions surrounding mental health and help-seeking may explain why young people are reluctant to approach others for help. Improving public awareness of the services and resources that are available, as well as screening for psychological distress in primary care services, may be necessary to improve mental wellbeing among young adults.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e686-e692
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number651
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Health Services Accessibility
  • help-seeking behaviour
  • mental health
  • primary health care
  • young adults


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