Help-seeking - Department of Education and Early Childhood

Building Resilience
in Children and
Young People
Teacher Professional
Why teach help-seeking?
• Help-seeking is a coping strategy that involves seeking
technical, instrumental, social or emotional support
from other people
• Help-seeking behaviour of children and young people is
fundamental to their mental health and wellbeing
• Encouraging and fostering help-seeking behaviours through
school-based programs is one way to improve their
mental health and wellbeing
(Rickwood et al. 2005)
Help-seeking Patterns
Young people are more likely to use informal rather
than formal sources of help, even with serious
problems such as suicidal ideation
Females seek help more readily than males
Males are more likely to seek help from parents
than from other sources
Mothers are frequently used as source of help by
adolescents - this challenges assumptions about
the generation divide
Higher SES and education levels are associated
with higher levels of help-seeking
(Rickwood et al. 2005; Kuhl, Horlick and Morrisey 1997)
Common Barriers to Help-seeking
• lack of trust in
• fear of burdening
• fear that situation
will become worse
if known
• shame
• embarrassment
• guilt
• believing one
should cope on
one’s own
• lack of knowledge
about support
services available
• inaccessible
• lack of culturally
Help-seeking and Mental Health Problems
• Few young people seek help from formal sources for mental health
problems (Ciarrochi, Deane, Wilson, & Rickwood, 2002; Wilson, Deane, &
Ciarrochi 2005)
• In one Australian study only 2% of 4-16 year olds with mental health
problems had been in touch with a professional service in the previous
6 months (Rickwood et al. 2005)
• In another study between 3 and 13% of children and adolescents with
mental health problems had received professional help in the previous
6 months (Sawyer et al. 2000)
• It is the young people who most need help who are the least likely to
seek it (Lazarus 1991; Rickwood et al. 2005)
Data from Mental Health Report, 2014
In 2013, 14,461 young people aged 15-19 years participated in Mission
Australia’s Youth Survey
The survey used a widely accepted measure of non-specific psychological
distress known as the Kessler 6 (K6) which consists of a six-item scale that
asks about experiences of anxiety and depressive symptoms during the past
four weeks
The K6 (a widely accepted measure of mental illness) was used to classify
Youth Survey respondents into two groups
those with a ‘probable serious mental illness’
those with ‘no probable serious mental illness’
Just over one fifth (21.2%) of young people aged 15 -19 who responded to the
survey met the criteria for having a probable serious mental illness, ranging
from 19.4% for 19 year olds to 21.5% for 15 year olds
Females were almost twice as likely as males to meet criteria for having a
probable serious mental illness (26.2% compared to 13.8%)
Mission Australia 2014
Top concerns – higher distress levels for females
than males
Females with a
probable serious
mental illness
• Coping with stress
• School or study
problems 66.0%
• Body image 65.9%
• Depression 59.8%
Males with a
probable serious
mental illness:
• Coping with stress
• Depression 49.7%
• School or study
problems 49.4%
• Body image 32.9%
Mission Australia 2014
Lower help-seeking comfort for those in most need
• When compared with than those without a probable serious
mental illness, young people with a probable serious mental
illness are substantially more uncomfortable seeking
information, advice or support from:
 Parents (32.8% compared to 10.3%)
 Relatives/family friends: 34.3% compared to 14.5%
 Teachers: 49.6% compared to 29.2%
Friends and the internet are the top sources of information, advice or
support that young people, both with and without a probable serious
mental illness go to
Mission Australia 2014
Gender and Help-seeking
• 60% of male and female respondents with a probable serious mental
illness felt uncomfortable accessing help from:
 a telephone hotline 69.5%
 a community agency 60.2%
 online counselling services 61.7%
• Males with a probable serious mental illness were more uncomfortable
than females in seeking information, advice and support from:
 friends (18.3% compared to 11.4%)
 the internet (21.7% compared to 13.6%)
 magazines (50.5% compared to 36.2%)
Mission Australia 2014
Those who most need help are the least likely to
seek it
• Adolescents (16-18) low in emotional awareness
are the least likely to seek help from friends/family
and most likely to refuse help from anyone
• University students who are least skilled at
managing their emotions have the lowest intention
of seeking help from family and friends
• Those with low emotional competence are less
likely to say they would seek help from
(Ciarrochi et al. 2002)
Help-Seeking at School
• Research suggests that young people are reluctant to seek
help from teachers (Mazzer & Rickwood 2013; Rickwood et al. 2005)
• Students are more likely to seek help from those teachers
they can trust, and who they find to be friendly and nonjudgmental (Cahill & Coffey 2013; Mazzer & Rickwood 2013; Rickwood et
al. 2005; Rughani, Deane, & Wilson 2011)
Positive relationships can therefore
play a protective role for students
Activities in the Help-seeking Lessons aim to assist students to:
Identify people and situations with which they feel a sense of belonging
Identify situations that feel safe and unsafe
Identity when and from whom help can be sought
Practice solving simple interpersonal problems
Identify ways to care for others, including ways of making and keeping friends
Discuss the importance of seeking help when dealing with problems that are too big to solve alone
Practice seeking help from adults and peers
Identify communication skills that enhance peer support and help-seeking
Identify a range of conflict resolution and help-seeking strategies to negotiate positive outcomes to
Discuss the concept of leadership and identify situations where it is appropriate to adopt this role
Describe and apply strategies that can be used in situations that make them feel uncomfortable or
Identify situations in which they should seek help in working through problems
Identify a list of trusted people to seek out when needing help
Normalise and de-stigmatise help-seeking behaviour
Contribute to groups and teams
Identify enablers and barriers to achieving goals
Identify indicators of possible problems in relationships in a range of situations
Analyse enablers of and barriers to effective verbal, non-verbal and digital communication in helpseeking situations
Evaluate, rethink and refine approaches to tasks to take account of unexpected or difficult situations
and safety considerations
Reflect critically on their emotional responses to challenging situations in a range of contexts
Formulate plans for effective communication (verbal, non-verbal, digital) to complete complex tasks
Devise and enact strategies for working in diverse teams, drawing on the skills and contributions of
others to complete complex tasks
Propose, implement and monitor strategies to address identified needs
Yr 9/10
Example Learning Activities
1. Help-seeking role-plays
Work in pairs or trios. Choose one
of the three Can you help me?
Design and prepare a help-seeking
Explain how you feel
Name the problem
Make a request for help
Watch the role-plays and ask:
– Have they named the problem?
– Have they got their message
across clearly?
– What else could they do or say?
Scenario 1: Your parent didn’t arrive
to pick you up after school.
Scenario 2: A friend is trying to force
you to do something that you know
is wrong.
Scenario 3: You’ve been away sick
and don’t know how to do the new
Maths problems.
This activity is adapted from the Level 3-4 Building Resilience learning materials (Topic 6: Helpseeking, Activity 5)
Example Learning Activities
2a. Assessing when to ask for adult help
Level 5-6 Scenario:
In small groups, respond to
the following scenario:
• What is the problem?
• Who could you ask for
• What could you say?
Your friend has started
going to the sickbay a lot
with headaches. She told
you in secret that she is
feeling very upset
because her parents are
fighting and she thinks
they are going to split up.
This has been stopping
her from sleeping properly
at night. She asked you to
promise not to tell anyone.
This activity is adapted from the Level 3-4 Building Resilience learning materials (Topic 6: Helpseeking, Activity 5)
Example Learning Activities
2b. Assessing when to ask for adult help
Level 7-8 Scenario:
In small groups, respond to
the following scenario:
What could you say to this person?
How could you use a friend as a source of
How could you use an adult as a source of
How could you use a teacher as a source of
How could you use a parent as a source of
What can someone do in this situation to
seek help themself?
A lot of people in the
class tease one of the
other students because
of the way he looks. You
don’t like this and you
can see it really gets to
this person, even
though he tries to laugh
it off. You want it to stop.
This activity is adapted from the Level 7-8 Building Resilience learning materials (Topic 6: Help-seeking,
Activity 2)
Example Learning Activities
2c. Assessing when to ask for adult help
Level 9-10 Scenario:
In small groups, respond to
the following scenario:
Is this serious?
Should George talk to someone
else about this?
Should his friends talk to someone
about this? Who?
What might happen if nobody
takes action?
George has started missing
school a lot and is falling behind
with his work. He stays home to
look after his mum who is
suffering from depression and
recovering from a problem
relating to alcohol use. He has
not told his friends what is
wrong with his mum, but they
know he has some kind of home
duties. His friends notice that
the teachers think he is just
• What are some sources of help for you as a teacher around
lesson planning, classroom management or general wellbeing
• How do you model help-seeking behaviour to your students?
• How do you respond to help-seeking behaviour from your
• How do you encourage students to provide help to each other?
• How do you encourage students to seek your assistance and
each other’s assistance in the classroom?
• What do you do to help students to develop supportive peer
Useful Links
Beyond blue
Get Ready (drug education resources)
Catching on Early and Catching on Later (Sexuality Education resources)
Cahill, Helen, & Coffey, Julia. (2013). Young people and the Learning Partnerships
program. Youth Studies Australia, 32(4).
Ciarrochi, Deane et al, 2002, Adolescents who need help the most are the least likely to
seek it: the relationship between low emotional competence and low intention to seek
help, British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, Vol. 30, Iss. 2, p173
Kuhl, Horlick and Morrisey, 1997, Measuring Barriers to help-seeking behaviour in
adolescents, Journal of Youth And Adolescence, Vol. 26, iss. 6, p 637-651
Mazzar, K., & Rickwood, D. (2013). Teachers' role breadth and perceived efficacy in
supporting student mental health. Canberra: Universite of Canberra.
Mission Australia Youth Mental Health report of Young Australians June 2014
Rickwood, D.J., 1995, The effectiveness of seeking help for coping with personal
problems in late adolescence, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 24, Iss. 6, pp. 685
Rickwood, D., Deane, F. P., Coralie, J. W., & Ciarrochi, J. (2005). Young people’s helpseeking for mental health problems. Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental
Health (AeJAMH), 4(3), 1-34.
Rughani, Janaki, Deane, Frank P., & Wilson, Coralie J. (2011). Rural adolescents' helpseeking intentions for emotional problems: The influence of perceived benefits and
stoicism. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 19(2), 64-69
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