The Efficacy of a Preventative Intervention on Regional Young People's Attitudes and Intentions Towards Help-Seeking for Mental Health Issues

Lindy Cavanagh

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    Mental illness is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in Australia affecting 1 in 4 young people (Muir et al., 2009). A population experiencing particular vulnerability to mental illness are those aged between 12-24 years (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 2008), as this chronology coincides with the developmental stage of adolescence. Vulnerability to mental illness is heightened during adolescence as it is a significant stage of both physical and mental development and transition. Subsequently, young people have the highest incidence and prevalence of mental illness however, they are the least likely to help-seek (Rickwood, Deane & Wilson, 2007), which results in a decrease in their health and wellbeing (McGorry, 2011). The effect of poor mental health in young people has significant implications that impact not only on the young person but have broader social, emotional, educational and financial implications (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010).The principal aim of this thesis was to investigate regional young people's attitudes about, and intentions to help-seek for mental health issues. Using an educational resource designed for secondary students, (Herrman, 2001) as a primary health intervention, a further aim was to investigate the efficacy of the HeadStrong resource. The thesis proposed that a positive relationship between participating in the HeadStrong program and increased propensity to help-seek, would subsequently result in the greater likelihood of young people seeking help for mental health issues (Ajzen, 2002). The research questions were investigated using a mixed method approach on a proportionate stratified random sample (Minichiello, Sullivan, Greenwood, & Axford, 2004) of 10 New South Wales (NSW) Central West secondary schools. The sample of schools included independent, catholic, single sex and coeducational schools (five of these schools were used as a control group). The participants in the research were Stage 5 (Years 9 and 10) students and the setting for the administration of the intervention occurred during timetabled Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) classes.As an exploratory multi-case study (Yin, 2003), the research employed a range of data collection methods. Data collection methods included the administration of the 'Inventory of Attitudes Toward Seeking Mental Health Services' (Mackenzie, Knox, Gekoski, & Macaulay, 2004) to detect attitudes towards help-seeking for mental health issues. The questionnaire was administered to consenting Stage 5 PDHPE students in the sample schools.In addition, the researcher conducted semi-structured face-to-face interviews with Stage 5 PDHPE students, and PDHPE teachers who administered the HeadStrong resource in the intervention schools. The interviews aimed to explore student and teacher perceptions of the efficacy of the HeadStrong intervention and young people's attitudes and intentions to help-seek for mental health issues.Quantitative data were analysed using the statistical procedures of t-tests and Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA). This analysis assisted in preparing a representative attitude of the sample of Stage 5 PDHPE students and highlights student's existing attitudes about help-seeking in the subscales of i) help-seeking propensity and ii) indifference to stigma. The Stage 5 student interviews assist in identifying students' mental health literacy by identifying their knowledge of the behaviour of help-seeking and examining students' intent to help-seek for mental health issues. In addition to this, the interviews assist in identifying the existing barriers to, and facilitators of help-seeking, and evaluates the efficacy of the HeadStrong program from a students' perspective.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Clarke, Deb, Principal Supervisor
    Award date28 Jan 2016
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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