Help-seeking for mental health problems from the patient perspective – A qualitative study / Das Hilfe(auf)suchen bei psychischen Gesundheitsproblemen aus der Betroffenenperspektive – Eine qualitative Studie

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Background: Early specialised care is important for those with mental health problems to prevent e.g. chronic progression. Targeted professionally initiated intervention to stabilise mental health status is only possible if affected individuals actively seek support. The reasons for inadequate use of qualified services have not been sufficiently investigated from the perspectives of those affected. There is only limited insight into the help-seeking behaviour of those with mental health issues. Aim: This study sheds light on the ‘experience’ of help-seeking to time of first contact with a psychiatric institution. It specifically concentrates on the perspective of those affected and their subjective problems.

Method: Using a qualitative-inductive design, patients at a crisis centre were retrospectively interviewed using a guideline-supported approach. Interview results were analysed using Saldaña (2013) opening coding (two circles).

Results: The patients’ experience can be categorised as ‘real’ problems as the cause, exacerbated mental health problems and utilising mental health services. Help-seeking is determined by the need to manage causal, ‘real’ (everyday, social) problems. Many mental health problem have long not been recognised as such, and thus help-seeking is initially focussed on ‘real’ problems. At all levels of help-seeking, from recognition of a mental health Problem to overcoming barriers preventing use of specialised help, affected persons require the support of third parties.

Conclusions: The results indicate the need for a patient-orientated transformation of mental health primary care to provide for more easily accessible services that take into account the everyday and social problems of those with related problems.

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