Adolescent help-seeking

Adolescent help-seeking

Sarah Gray and Galina Daraganova

LSAC Annual Statistical Report 2017 chapter— November 2018
A group of teenagers sitting in a circle listening to one of the girls speaking

Adolescence is a period of complex developmental transition, characterised by heightened vulnerability to emotional and behavioural problems (Steinberg, 2005). Globally, mental health disorders are experienced by one in four young people aged 13-24 years (Belfer, 2008). Despite the high prevalence of mental health problems during adolescence, many young people do not seek help for their problems, which can place them at greater risk of developing severe or extended mental health problems.

Understanding who adolescents go to for help for their personal and emotional problems is important to inform appropriate pathways of care. We describe the past help-seeking behaviours and future help-seeking intentions of adolescents, focusing on who adolescents go to for help. We also compare the help seeking of adolescents who are experiencing symptoms of mental health difficulties with those of adolescents with no symptoms.

Key messages

Over 80% of young people aged between 10 and 15 said that they had sought help for a personal or emotional problem in the past 12 months, and more than 90% said that they would seek help if they had a problem in the future.

Family and friends were the most common sources of help for teens but around one in 10 had sought help from a mental health professional, and one in five had looked at the internet to source help.

As children got older, fewer sought help from their parents – nine out of 10 sought help from their parents at age 10–11, seven out of 10 at age 14–15.

Teens with higher levels of self-perceived social support from friends and family were more likely to say they would be willing to seek help in the future than those with inadequate social support.

There were some gender differences in adolescent help‑seeking. At age 14–15, girls generally reported more help-seeking behaviours and intentions than boys.

Girls were also more likely to seek help from a friend at all ages. At age 10–11, 54% of boys and 68% of girls they would seek help from a friend if they had a problem, and at age 12–13, 63% of boys and 83% of girls said they would seek help from a friend.

Read full chapter: Adolescent help-seeking.

Authors and Acknowledgements

Featured image: © GettyImages/Asiseeit

Publication details

LSAC Annual Statistical Report 2017 chapter
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, November 2018.

AIFS news

Get the latest news about our publications, research and upcoming events.