Do help-seeking intentions during early adolescence vary for adolescents experiencing different levels of depressive symptoms?

Michael G. Sawyer, Nina Borojevic, Kerry A. Ettridge, Susan H. Spence, Jeanie Sheffield, John Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: To investigate whether help-seeking intentions for depressive symptoms vary for adolescents experiencing low, mild-to-moderate, and high levels of depressive symptoms. Methods: A total of 5,362 participants aged 1214 years had completed the baseline assessment for a randomized controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of a universal intervention designed to reduce depressive symptoms among high school students. The participants reported their help-seeking intentions in response to a vignette describing an individual experiencing depressive symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of a minor depressive disorder. Standard measures were used to assess participants' level of depressive symptoms and perceived level of social support. Results: Logistic regression models examined relationships between help-seeking intentions and levels of depression, after adjustment for demographic characteristics and perceived support. As compared with those with low levels of depressive symptoms, adolescents with high levels of symptoms reported less intention to seek help from friends (odds ratio [OR] =.42) or family members (OR =.29). They were also four times more likely to report that they would not seek help from anybody (OR = 4.55). A similar pattern was evident during comparisons of help-seeking intentions reported by adolescents with mild-to-moderate levels of depressive symptoms versus those with low levels of symptoms. Conclusions: Targeted and universal interventions need to encourage peers and family members to actively engage with young adolescents experiencing depressive symptoms rather than waiting for them to initiate help-seeking. This is particularly important for adolescents experiencing higher levels of depressive symptoms who may not initiate help-seeking themselves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-242
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Mar 2012


  • Adolescents
  • Depression
  • Help-seeking
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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