Encouraging Help-Seeking Behaviours in Young People

Introduction

Young people, or individuals aged 12-24, are at a critical life stage where they develop essential skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making. The transition from childhood through adolescence to early adulthood can be stressful and challenging due to various social, physical, and emotional changes (Romeo, 2017). These challenges can contribute to or manifest in poor mental health, making it crucial to develop long-term habits that promote good mental health and well-being.

Young People and Mental Health

When mental health problems arise during adolescence and are left unaddressed, managing mental health as an adult becomes even more challenging (Briggs, 2009). Help-seeking behaviour, which includes engaging with mental health services when experiencing symptoms, is a vital habit to develop. These services can take many forms, such as support groups, peer support, counselling, and psychotherapy.

Help-Seeking Behaviour

Children and adolescents entering mental health assistance often have little to no experience with these services. Making a positive first impression to encourage long-term help-seeking habits is essential. Poor practices or negative experiences can deter young people from seeking help in the future. Systemic shortcomings of services or the mental health sector can also contribute to this issue.

Avoiding Stigma

It is crucial to avoid stigmatising practices that may turn young people away from seeking help. Child-focused techniques may be seen as childish or “lame,” and adult-targeted modalities may not be developmentally appropriate. It’s essential to be critical about the approach when working with young people, ensuring it suits their developmental stage.

Collaborating with Young People

To promote help-seeking behaviour, it is essential to collaborate with young people, balancing their context and preferences with the responsibilities and duty of care owed to them (Claveirole, 2004). Insights and co-created meaning derived from collaboration can inform clinical practice, resulting in more appropriate and valuable care for young people. Services must implement person-centred practice frameworks, enabling young people to perceive authentic support for their independence, self-agency, and self-determination.

Implementing Young Person-Centric Practice

Young person-centric practice can take many forms, from individual interactions to organisational consultation and co-design of policies and procedures with young people. Providing young people with a safe space to balance the exploration of their autonomy and identity with practitioner expertise encourages present and future help-seeking behaviour. Using practitioners’ listening skills is a step in the right direction.

Conclusion

Encouraging help-seeking behaviours in young people requires a comprehensive approach that involves positive initial experiences, avoiding stigmatising practices, and collaborating with young people to ensure their voices are heard and valued. By fostering an environment that supports their autonomy and developmental needs, we can promote lasting help-seeking behaviour and better mental health outcomes for young people.