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When Self-Reliance Is Not Safe: Associations between Reduced Help-Seeking and Subsequent Mental Health Symptoms in Suicidal Adolescents

Labouliere, Christa D.; Kleinman, Marjorie; Gould, Madelyn S.

The majority of suicidal adolescents have no contact with mental health services, and reduced help-seeking in this population further lessens the likelihood of accessing treatment. A commonly-reported reason for not seeking help is youths’ perception that they should solve problems on their own. In this study, we explore associations between extreme self-reliance behavior (i.e., solving problems on your own all of the time), help-seeking behavior, and mental health symptoms in a community sample of adolescents. Approximately 2150 adolescents, across six schools, participated in a school-based suicide prevention screening program, and a subset of at-risk youth completed a follow-up interview two years later. Extreme self-reliance was associated with reduced help-seeking, clinically-significant depressive symptoms, and serious suicidal ideation at the baseline screening. Furthermore, in a subset of youth identified as at-risk at the baseline screening, extreme self-reliance predicted level of suicidal ideation and depressive symptoms two years later even after controlling for baseline symptoms. Given these findings, attitudes that reinforce extreme self-reliance behavior may be an important target for youth suicide prevention programs. Reducing extreme self-reliance in youth with suicidality may increase their likelihood of appropriate help-seeking and concomitant reductions in symptoms.


Also Published In

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

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February 13, 2016
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