Published Papers - Abstract 180

Outram S, Murphy B & Cockburn J. Factors associated with accessing professional help for psychological distress in midlife Australian women. Journal of Mental Health, 2004; 13(2): 185-195

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. Objective: To identify factors associated with and barriers to seeking professional help for psychological distress amongst a sample of 322 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). 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 as opposed to sometimes or hardly ever (p=0.015), being dissatisfied with family relationships (p=0.008), and feeling understood by family/friends sometimes as opposed to mostly (p=0.002). Women’s major barriers to seeking help 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: Attitudinal barriers need to be addressed to enable midlife women to more easily seek and access mental health care when needed.