Skip to main content Accessibility help

The associations between psychiatric label use and young people's help-seeking preferences: results from an Australian national survey

  • M. B. H. Yap (a1), N. J. Reavley (a1) and A. F. Jorm (a1)



Emerging evidence suggests that psychiatric labels may facilitate help seeking in young people. This study examined whether young people's use of accurate labels for five disorders would predict their help-seeking preferences.


Young people's help-seeking intentions were assessed by a national telephone survey of 3021 Australian youths aged 15–25. Respondents were presented with a vignette of a young person portraying depression, depression with suicidal thoughts, psychosis, social phobia or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They were then asked what they thought was wrong with the person, and where they would go for help if they had a similar problem.


Accurate psychiatric label use was associated with a preference to seek help from a general practitioner or mental health specialist. Accurately labelling the psychosis vignette was also associated with a preference to not seek help from family or friends.


Findings add to the emerging evidence that accurate psychiatric labelling may facilitate help seeking for various mental disorders in young people, and support the promise of community awareness campaigns designed to improve young people's ability to accurately identify mental disorders.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Dr M. Yap, Population Mental Health Group, Melbourne School of Population Health, Level 3, 207 Bouverie Street, Victoria 3010, Australia. (Email:


Hide All
Ajzen, I (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 50, 179211.
American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), 4th edn.American Psychiatric Association: Washington, DC.
Angermeyer, M, Matschinger, H (2005). Labeling – stereotype – discrimination – an investigation of the stigma process. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 40, 391395.
Angermeyer, MC, Holzinger, A, Matschinger, H (2009). Mental health literacy and attitude towards people with mental illness: a trend analysis based on population surveys in the eastern part of Germany. European Psychiatry 24, 225232.
Armitage, CJ, Conner, M (2001). Efficacy of the theory of planned behaviour: a meta-analytic review. British Journal of Social Psychology 40, 471499.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007). National survey of mental health and wellbeing: summary of results. Catalogue no. 4326.0. Australian Bureau of Statistics: Canberra. Retrieved 16 January 2013 from
Beyondblue: The National Depression Initiative. Retrieved 16 January 2013 from
Biddle, L, Donovan, J, Sharp, D, Gunnell, D (2007). Explaining non-help-seeking amongst young adults with mental distress: a dynamic interpretive model of illness behaviour. Sociology of Health Illness 29, 9831002.
De Girolamo, G, Dagani, J, Purcell, R, Cocchi, A, Mcgorry, PD (2012). Age of onset of mental disorders and use of mental health services: needs, opportunities and obstacles. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences 21, 4757.
Gove, WR (1975). The labeling theory of mental illness: a reply to Scheff. American Sociological Review 40, 242248.
Haller, DM, Sanci, LA, Sawyer, SM, Patton, GC (2009). The identification of young people's emotional distress: a study in primary care. British Journal of General Practice 59, 159165.
Harris, MG, Henry, LP, Harrigan, SM, Purcell, R, Schwartz, OS, Farrelly, SE, Prosser, AL, Jackson, HJ, Mcgorry, PD (2005). The relationship between duration of untreated psychosis and outcome: an eight-year prospective study. Schizophrenia Research 79, 8593.
Hawton, K, Saunders, KEA, O'connor, RC (2012). Self-harm and suicide in adolescents. Lancet 379, 23732382.
Hsu, L, Alden, LE (2008). Cultural influences on willingness to seek treatment for social anxiety in Chinese and European heritage students. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 14, 215223.
Jorm, AF, Griffiths, KM (2008). The public's stigmatizing attitudes towards people with mental disorders: how important are biomedical conceptualizations? Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 118, 315321.
Jorm, AF, Korten, AE, Jacomb, PA, Christensen, H, Rodgers, B, Pollitt, P (1997). Public beliefs about causes and risk factors for depression and schizophrenia. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 32, 143148.
Jorm, AF, Wright, A, Morgan, AJ (2007). Where to seek help for a mental disorder? National survey of the beliefs of Australian youth and their parents. Medical Journal of Australia 187, 556560.
Jorm, AF, Morgan, AJ, Wright, A (2008). First aid strategies that are helpful to young people developing a mental disorder: beliefs of health professionals compared to young people and parents. BMC Psychiatry 8, 42.
Kessler, RC, Andrews, G, Colpe, LJ, Hiripi, E, Mroczek, DK, Normand, LT, Walters, EE, Zaslavsky, AM (2002). Short screening scales to monitor population prevalences and trends in non-specific psychological distress. Psychological Medicine 32, 959976.
Kessler, RC, Berglund, P, Demler, O, Jin, R, Merikangas, KR, Walters, EE (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry 62, 593602.
Kitchener, B, Jorm, A (2006). Mental health first aid training: review of evaluation studies. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 40, 68.
Link, B, Cullen, F, Struening, E, Shrout, P, Dohrenwend, B (1989). A modified labeling theory approach to mental disorders: an empirical assessment. American Sociological Review 54, 400423.
Marshall, M, Lewis, S, Lockwood, A, Drake, R, Jones, P, Croudace, T (2005). Association between duration of untreated psychosis and outcome in cohorts of first-episode patients: a systematic review. Archives of General Psychiatry 62, 975983.
Mathews, RR, Hall, WD, Vos, T, Patton, GC, Degenhardt, L (2011). What are the major drivers of prevalent disability burden in young Australians? Medical Journal of Australia 194, 232235.
Mills, KL, Mcfarlane, AC, Slade, T, Creamer, M, Silove, D, Teesson, M, Bryant, R (2010). Assessing the prevalence of trauma exposure in epidemiological surveys. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 45, 407415.
Penn, DL, Nowlin-Drummond, A (2001). Politically correct labels and schizophrenia: a rose by any other name? Schizophrenia Bulletin 27, 197203.
Perkins, DO, Gu, H, Boteva, K, Lieberman, JA (2005). Relationship between duration of untreated psychosis and outcome in first-episode schizophrenia: a critical review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry 162, 17851804.
Ramsay, R, Tanney, B, Tierney, R, Lang, W (1999). ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) Trainers' Manual. LivingWorks Education: Calgary.
Read, J, Haslam, N, Sayce, L, Davies, E (2006). Prejudice and schizophrenia: a review of the ‘mental illness is an illness like any other’ approach. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 114, 303318.
Read, J, Haslam, N, Davies, E (2009). The need to rely on evidence not ideology in stigma research. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 119, 412413.
Reavley, NJ, Jorm, AF (2011). Young people's recognition of mental disorders and beliefs about treatment and outcome: findings from an Australian national survey. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 45, 890898.
Reavley, NJ, Yap, MBH, Wright, A, Jorm, AF (2011). Actions taken by young people to deal with mental disorders: findings from an Australian national survey of youth. Early Intervention in Psychiatry 5, 335342.
Rickwood, D, Deane, FP, Wilson, CJ, Ciarrochi, J (2005). Young people's help-seeking for mental health problems. Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health 4, (Suppl.), 218251.
Rose, D, Thornicroft, G (2010). Service user perspectives on the impact of a mental illness diagnosis. Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale 19, 140147.
Rose, D, Thornicroft, G, Pinfold, V, Kassam, A (2007). 250 labels used to stigmatise people with mental illness. BMC Health Services Research 7, 97.
Rüsch, N, Evans-Lacko, S, Thornicroft, G (2012). What is a mental illness? Public views and their effects on attitudes and disclosure. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 46, 641650.
Scheff, TJ (1966). Being Mentally Ill. Aldine Publishing Company: Chicago.
Slade, T, Johnston, A, Oakley Browne, MA, Andrews, G, Whiteford, H (2009). 2007 National survey of mental health and wellbeing: methods and key findings. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 43, 594605.
Statacorp (2011). Stata Statistical Software: Release 12. StataCorp LP: College Station, TX.
Thompson, A, Issakidis, C, Hunt, C (2008). Delay to seek treatment for anxiety and mood disorders in an Australian clinical sample. Behavior Change 25, 7184.
Thornicroft, G (2012). No time to lose: onset and treatment delay for mental disorders. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences 21, 5961.
Varnik, P (2012). Suicide in the world. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 9, 760771.
Vogel, DL, Wester, SR, Larson, LM, Wade, NG (2006). An information-processing model of the decision to seek professional help. Professional Psychology – Research and Practice 37, 398406.
Webb, TL, Sheeran, P (2006). Does changing behavioral intentions engender behavior change? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. Psychological Bulletin 132, 249268.
Wright, A, Jorm, AF (2009). Labels used by young people to describe mental disorders: factors associated with their development. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 43, 946955.
Wright, A, Harris, MG, Wiggers, JH, Jorm, AF, Cotton, SM, Harrigan, SM, Hurworth, RE, Mcgorry, PD (2005). Recognition of depression and psychosis by young Australians and their beliefs about treatment. Medical Journal of Australia 183, 143–143.
Wright, A, Jorm, AF, Harris, MG, Mcgorry, PD (2007). What's in a name? Is accurate recognition and labeling of mental disorders by young people associated with better help-seeking and treatment preferences? Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 42, 244250.
Wright, A, Jorm, AF, Mackinnon, AJ (2011). Labeling of mental disorders and stigma in young people. Social Science and Medicine 73, 498506.
Wright, A, Jorm, A, Mackinnon, A (2012). Labels used by young people to describe mental disorders: which ones predict effective help-seeking choices? Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 47, 917926.
Yap, MB, Reavley, NJ, Jorm, AF (2012). Associations between awareness of beyondblue and mental health literacy in Australian youth: results from a national survey. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 46, 541552.
Yap, MBH, Reavley, N, Jorm, AF (in press). Where would young people seek help for mental disorders and what stops them? Findings from an Australian national survey. Journal of Affective Disorders. DOI:
Zwaanswijk, M, Verhaak, PFM, Bensing, JM, Van Der Ende, J, Verhulst, FC (2003). Help seeking for emotional and behavioural problems in children and adolescents–a review of recent literature. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 12, 153161.



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed