Effectiveness of interventions to promote help-seeking for mental health problems: systematic review and meta-analysis

Ziyan Xu, Fangfang Huang, Markus Kösters, Tobias Staiger, Thomas Becker, Graham Thornicroft, Nicolas Rüsch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

101 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Help-seeking is important to access appropriate care and improve mental health. However, individuals often delay or avoid seeking help for mental health problems. Interventions to improve help-seeking have been developed, but their effectiveness is unclear. A systematic review and meta-analysis were therefore conducted to examine the effectiveness of mental health related help-seeking interventions. Nine databases in English, German and Chinese were searched for randomised and non-randomised controlled trials. Effect sizes were calculated for attitudes, intentions and behaviours to seek formal, informal and self-help. Ninety-eight studies with 69 208 participants were included. Interventions yielded significant short-term benefits in terms of formal help-seeking, self-help, as well as mental health literacy and personal stigma. There were also positive long-term effects on formal help-seeking behaviours. The most common intervention types were strategies to increase mental health literacy, destigmatisation (both had positive short-term effects on formal help-seeking behaviours) as well as motivational enhancement (with positive long-term effects on formal help-seeking behaviours). Interventions improved formal help-seeking behaviours if delivered to people with or at risk of mental health problems, but not among children, adolescents or the general public. There was no evidence that interventions increased the use of informal help. Few studies were conducted in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This study provides evidence for the effectiveness of help-seeking interventions in terms of improving attitudes, intentions and behaviours to seek formal help for mental health problems among adults. Future research should develop effective interventions to improve informal help-seeking, for specific target groups and in LMICs settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2658-2667
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Medicine
Volume48
Issue number16
Early online date1 Jun 2018
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jun 2018

Keywords

  • Help-seeking
  • mental health
  • mental health literacy
  • service use
  • stigma

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