Mental illness
: an integrated model of help seeking

  • Nektarios Alexi

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Mental illness affects approximately 20% of all people worldwide at any one time, no less so within Australia yet many people do not seek help for these conditions. While mental health promotion and prevention strategies in Australia are targeting this issue, scant research has considered the level of help-seeking for mental illness among immigrants to Australia and their subsequent generations. Ethnicity has been proposed as a contributing factor to mental illness and help-seeking among immigrants therefore it is important to consider the impact of acculturation and enculturation among immigrants. The aims of this thesis were to explore attitudes to mental illness, diagnosis, social support, perceived barriers, SES, and demographic variables on people’s willingness to seek help. Baseline data from Greek-Cypriots living in their country of origin, and samples of Anglo-Australians, Greek-born Australians, and Greek-Australians (born in Australia) were compared using a model of willingness to seek help synthesised from the literature. In Study One, 196 Greek-Cypriots living in Cyprus (age M = 34.50 years, SD = 14.16) indicated their mental health status, demographic variables, attitudes, barriers, SES, levels of social support and willingness to seek health help for a mental illness. Approximately 25% of the sample reported being diagnosed with a mental illness within the past 12 months, and around a third of these people were taking prescribed medication. Willingness to seek help was predicted negatively by stigma and positively by openness to help. Five hundred and thirteen volunteers, 184 Anglo-Australians (age M = 45.60 years, SD = 16.13), 171 Greek Australians (age M = 39.60 years, SD = 12.46), and 44 Greek-Born Greek-Australians) (age M = 51.53 years, SD = 14.97), participated in Study Two. Between 20 to 30% of participants across the groups had been diagnosed with a mental illness with 10 to 17% taking prescribed medication for their condition. The majority of participants indicated they would seek professional help for a mental illness with only around 2% indicating they would not seek any help. Openness to help, less stigma, and higher levels of education predicted willingness to seek help among Anglo-Australians and, with the exception of education, among the Greek Australian sample. For those Greek Australians born overseas, only lower levels of stigma predicted willingness to seek help. Measures related to ethnicity in the Greek groups in Australia were not significant. A third study was conducted to identify any further factors that might influence willingness to seek help. Nine Greek-Australians (six males) (age M = 29.84, SD = 8.75) and eight Anglo-Australians (one male) (age M = 347.93, SD = 14.10) participated in interviews focused on this issue. Results revealed participants had a poor understanding of mental illness, and in terms of help-seeking suggested factors similar to those reported in the literature and examined in Studies One and Two. In addition, participants indicated embarrassment is associated with mental illness despite ongoing media campaigns and awareness-raising concerning mental illness. While both cohorts acknowledge that professional help may be useful they stressed the importance of a trusting and confidential relationship with the therapist. There were suggestions that Anglo-Australians were somewhat more willing to utilise professional help, while the Greek-Australian participants were likely to seek-out informal support such as from a priest. The outcomes of these studies have implications for community awareness raising programs to promote open attitudes to mental illness and building a relationship with one’s therapist. Future directions for research in this area are discussed.
    Date of AwardFeb 2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKathleen Moore (Supervisor), Cindy Wall (Supervisor) & Jon-Paul Cacioli (Supervisor)

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