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Mental disorders cause high burden in adolescents, but adolescents often underutilise potentially beneficial treatments. Perceived need for and barriers to care may influence whether adolescents utilise services and which treatments they receive. Adolescents and parents are stakeholders in adolescent mental health care, but their perceptions regarding need for and barriers to care might differ. Understanding patterns of adolescent-parent agreement might help identify gaps in adolescent mental health care.
A nationally representative sample of Australian adolescents aged 13–17 and their parents (N = 2310), recruited between 2013–2014, were asked about perceived need for four types of adolescent mental health care (counselling, medication, information and skill training) and barriers to care. Perceived need was categorised as fully met, partially met, unmet, or no need. Cohen's kappa was used to assess adolescent-parent agreement. Multinomial logistic regressions were used to model variables associated with patterns of agreement.
Almost half (46.5% (s.e. = 1.21)) of either adolescents or parents reported a perceived need for any type of care. For both groups, perceived need was greatest for counselling and lowest for medication. Identified needs were fully met for a third of adolescents. Adolescent-parent agreement on perceived need was fair (kappa = 0.25 (s.e. = 0.01)), but poor regarding the extent to which needs were met (kappa = −0.10 (s.e. = 0.02)). The lack of parental knowledge about adolescents' feelings was positively associated with adolescent-parent agreement that needs were partially met or unmet and disagreement about perceived need, compared to agreement that needs were fully met (relative risk ratio (RRR) = 1.91 (95% CI = 1.19–3.04) to RRR = 4.69 (95% CI = 2.38–9.28)). Having a probable disorder was positively associated with adolescent-parent agreement that needs were partially met or unmet (RRR = 2.86 (95% CI = 1.46–5.61)), and negatively with adolescent-parent disagreement on perceived need (RRR = 0.50 (95% CI = 0.30–0.82)). Adolescents reported most frequently attitudinal barriers to care (e.g. self-reliance: 55.1% (s.e. = 2.39)); parents most frequently reported that their child refused help (38.7% (s.e. = 2.69)). Adolescent-parent agreement was poor for attitudinal (kappa = −0.03 (s.e. = 0.06)) and slight for structural barriers (kappa = 0.02 (s.e. = 0.09)).
There are gaps in the extent to which adolescent mental health care is meeting the needs of adolescents and their parents. It seems important to align adolescents' and parents' needs at the beginning and throughout treatment and to improve communication between adolescents and their parents. Both might provide opportunities to increase the likelihood that needs will be fully met. Campaigns directed towards adolescents and parents need to address different barriers to care. For adolescents, attitudinal barriers such as stigma and mental health literacy require attention.
The stigma of mental illness, especially personal attitudes towards psychiatric patients and mental health help-seeking, is an important barrier in healthcare utilisation. These attitudes are not independent of each other and are also influenced by other factors, such as mental health literacy, especially the public’s causal explanations for mental problems. We aimed to disentangle the interrelations between the different aspects of stigma and causal explanations with respect to their association with healthcare utilisation.
Stigma and causal explanations were assessed cross-sectional using established German questionnaires with two unlabelled vignettes (schizophrenia and depression) in a random-selection representative community sample (N = 1375, aged 16–40 years). They were interviewed through a prior telephone survey for current mental disorder (n = 192) and healthcare utilisation (n = 377). Structural equation modelling was conducted with healthcare utilisation as outcome and stigma and causal explanations as latent variables. The final model was additionally analysed based on the vignettes.
We identified two pathways. One positive associated with healthcare utilisation, with high psychosocial stress and low constitution/personality related causal explanations, via positive perception of help-seeking and more help-seeking intentions. One negative associated with healthcare utilisation, with high biogenetic and constitution/personality, and low psychosocial stress related explanations, via negative perception of psychiatric patients and a strong wish for social distance. Sensitivity analysis generally supported both pathways with some differences in the role of biogenetic causal explanation.
Our results indicate that campaigns promoting early healthcare utilisation should focus on different strategies to promote facilitation and reduce barriers to mental healthcare.
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