Autonomy versus support: self-reliance and help-seeking for mental health problems in young people

Amelia Ishikawa, Debra Rickwood, Emily Bariola, Navjot Bhullar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Many young people with mental ill-health do not seek support, and developmental growth in self-reliance may be a barrier to help-seeking. Increasing autonomy is a positive developmental task for youth and a key aspect of resilience. This study examined the influence of perceived social support and resilience on the previously unexamined relationship between self-reliance and intentions to seek help from informal, professional, and self-help sources for mental health problems. Methods: An online survey was completed by a representative Australian community sample of 5,203 young people aged 12–25 years (half female), in May–June 2020. Results: Path analysis showed the hypothesised conceptual model did not fit the data well, but a modified model was a good fit. Higher self-reliance was associated with lower intentions to seek informal and professional help, as expected, but not with greater intentions for self-help. The relationship between self-reliance and informal help-seeking intentions was fully mediated by perceived social support, whereas the relationship between self-reliance and professional help-seeking was also direct. Perceived social support fully mediated the relationship between self-reliance and resilience. Intentions to use self-help were not influenced by variables in the study, but higher self-help intentions were associated with higher professional help-seeking intentions. Associations were consistent across age and gender groups. Conclusion: The results show the critical role of social support for combating some of the unhelpful aspects of self-reliance for mental health help-seeking in young people. Future research should explore how self-reliance can hinder or be harnessed to facilitate accessing appropriate mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-499
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number3
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


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