Research focused on how teens understand mental health and stigma

UOW PhD student calling for adolescents to take part in short survey

Research focused on how teens understand mental health and stigma

A PhD student from the University of Wollongong (UOW) is searching for adolescents to take part in new research that aims to uncover how teens’ understanding of mental health and stigma might influence whether they choose to seek help, or not, for mental health concerns.

Dominic Fernandez, from UOW’s Health Psychology: Research Group for Health Behaviour Promotion, said 2020 had been an exceptional year and the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for more research into mental health stigma and help-seeking among adolescents.

“We know that young people have experienced significant increases in psychological distress and mental health problems linked to COVID-19. There has also been a surge in the numbers of young people reaching out to crisis lines such as Kids Helpline,” he said.

“It is great that young people are reaching out for help, but we are interested in those who don’t seek help. Specifically, we want to explore possible barriers and facilitators of that help-seeking.

“A major barrier to help-seeking and providing help to friends or family who need it is mental health stigma.”

Dominic said the research aims to address whether reducing stigma around mental health would encourage more adolescents who are experiencing mental health concerns to seek help.

“Our research is exploring the relationship between how adolescents conceptualise mental illness and their stigma towards people with mental illness,” he said.

“We are trying to examine whether there are better or worse ways for adolescents to conceptualise mental illness in order to reduce stigma and promote help-seeking.

“This research is important as our findings will hopefully inform the development of stigma interventions with the aim of decreasing mental health stigma and promoting help-seeking and help-provision.”

Under the co-supervision of Dr Stewart Vella and Professor Franke Deane at UOW, Dominic’s PhD examines whether conceptualising mental illness as a continuum reduces adolescents’ stigma towards mental illness.

The researcher is looking for adolescents aged 13-17 who are interested in filling out a 25-minute survey exploring their beliefs about people with mental illness and help-seeking. Participants will be eligible to enter a prize draw.

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