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The online version of this article (https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-018-1700-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Studies have found that although there are high rates of depression among university students, their help-seeking practices are poor. It is important to identify students who are less likely to seek the necessary help, to encourage better help-seeking among them. This study, which was conducted among undergraduates in Sri Lanka, examined the associations between personal characteristics of the undergraduates and their intentions to seek help for depression.
This was a cross-sectional study in which 4461 undergraduates (Male: n = 1358, 30.4%, Female: n = 3099, 69.5%; Mean age = 22.18; SD = 1.47) indicated their intentions to seek help if personally affected by depression, which was described in a hypothetical vignette about a peer experiencing depression symptomatology. The predictors of the undergraduates’ help-seeking intentions, including their sociodemographic characteristics, prior exposure to and recognition of the problem, and their stigma towards those with depression were examined using binary logistic regression analyses models.
The undergraduates’ ability to recognise the problem was one of the strongest predictors of their intentions to seek professional help. Those with higher levels of stigma were less likely to seek both professional and informal help. While females were less likely to consider professional help, they were more likely to consider the help of informal help-providers and to consider religious strategies. Medical undergraduates and those who had sought help for personal experiences of the problem were also more likely to consider informal help. However, all these associations resulted in small effect sizes, except for those between recognition of the problem and the undergraduates’ intentions to seek professional help, where medium to very large effect sizes were observed in the case of some the associations examined.
Improvement of problem-recognition may be a key strategy for improving help-seeking among these undergraduates. Reduction of stigma may also be associated with better depression-related help-seeking of undergraduates. Females and medical undergraduates need to be educated about the importance of seeking appropriate types of help, and their informal social networks must be educated about how best to help them.