Mental health literacy and intended help-seeking in adolescence

  • Claire Goodfellow

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study investigates the extent to which personal stigma mediates the relationship between mental health literacy (MHL) and intended help-seeking in adolescence, and whether perceived stigma from specific groups (parents and friends) moderates these relationships. Additionally, the study examines whether age, gender, and socioeconomic status (SES) moderate associations between MHL, stigma and intended help-seeking. A theoretical framework is proposed and tested which draws on the Knowledge-Attitude Behaviour model (KAB) and incorporates subjective norms (Theory of Planned Behaviour, Ajzen, 1991; 1988), which are known to be particularly predictive of adolescent behaviour. The proposed framework of mental health literacy, stigma and help-seeking in adolescence was formulated to provide a possible explanation for known associations between MHL and help seeking despite a well evidenced gap between knowledge and behaviour. The framework proposes that MHL (knowledge), informs personal stigma (attitude) which informs intended helpseeking (behaviour).;It further proposes that perceived stigma from friends and parents (subjective norms) moderate associations between knowledge, attitude, and behaviour. A cross-sectional survey was administered to 12-17 year olds (n = 734) and data were analysed using Structural Equation Modelling (SEM). Results indicated that MHL reduced personal stigma, but different forms of MHL were associated with both increased and decreased help seeking intention, which represents a unique finding in the literature. Personal stigma did not mediate relationships in the model. Perceived stigmas acted as moderators, while demographic characteristics did not, indicating that the model holds well regardless of age, gender and SES. Based on findings it is suggested that to improve help-seeking, MHL interventions focus on effective treatments rather than on information and identification of mental health problems. Findings also demonstrated that MHL was most associated with help-seeking intention when perceived stigma was high. Therefore, it is further suggested that both peers and parents be incorporated into school-based interventions aiming to increase MHL, reduce perceived stigma and promote help-seeking.
Date of Award15 Oct 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorEdward Sosu (Supervisor) & Anna Macintyre (Supervisor)

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