Stigma associated with seeking help for psychological distress: how public and self-stigma, help-seeking attitudes and intent, self-compassion, and empathy relate
Portt, Erika L.
Doctor of Philosophy
DisciplinePsychology : Clinical
Help-seeking patterns among university students (mental health)
Empathy and self-compassion
MetadataShow full item record
College and university students experience high levels of psychological distress and would likely benefit from accessing mental health services. However, the stigma associated with seeking help as well as the stigma associated with mental illness in general reduce one’s likelihood of seeking services and lead to other negative consequences such as lower self-esteem and loss of opportunities. This study was conducted in order to: (a) better understand the mental health difficulties, discrimination, and help-seeking patterns among university students, (b) elucidate the processes involved in stigma and help-seeking behaviour, and (c) investigate empathy and self-compassion as potential protective factors. Participants were university students who completed an online survey at two time points with an approximate 3-month interval in-between. Students demonstrated high rates of mental health difficulties and experiences of discrimination. Students sought help from informal sources more frequently than formal sources. Regarding the stigma process, endorsed stigma of mental illness predicted self-stigma of seeking help, which predicted attitudes toward help-seeking, which in turn, predicted intentions to seek counselling. Intentions did not predict help-seeking behaviour. Trait empathy did not demonstrate a moderating effect, but self-compassion demonstrated a potential buffering role in the relationship between public stigma of seeking help and anticipated self-stigma of seeking help. Based on these results, interventions seeking to promote mental health literacy and self-compassion may be helpful in promoting effective mental health support and reducing self-stigma, respectively, although future research is required. Limitations of the present research are outlined and other directions for future research are proposed.