Background: Given the high prevalence of mental health problems in midlife women it is important to understand the factors that motivate and inhibit seeking professional help. Aim: To identify factors associated with and barriers to seeking professional help for psychological distress amongst midlife Australian women. Method: Qualitative and quantitative data were gathered using semi-structured telephone interviews in NSW Australia. Results: Seeking help from a GP was associated with poorer mental (p = 0.002) and physical health scores (p = 0.005). But in contrast seeking help from a mental health professional was associated with being out of paid employment (p = 0.035), being mostly able to talk about one's deepest problems (p = 0.015), being dissatisfied with family relationships (p = 0.008), and feeling understood by family/friends (p = 0.002). The barriers to seek help for these women were thinking they should cope alone (64%); thinking the problem would get better by itself (43%); embarrassment (35%); believing no help available (34%); not knowing where to go for help (30%); and fear of what others might think (28%). Qualitative data also highlighted attitudinal barriers to help-seeking. Conclusions: Although level of need predicted GP contacts, attitudinal factors were more important in contacts with mental health services. These attitudinal barriers need to be addressed to enable midlife women to more easily seek and access mental health care when needed. Declaration of interest: There are no known conflicts of interest.
Journal of Mental Health Vol. 13, Issue 2, p. 185-195
This is an electronic version of an article published in Journal of Mental Health Vol. 13, Issue 2, p. 185-195. Journal of Mental Health is available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/openurl?genre=article&issn=0963-8237&volume=13&issue=2&spage=185