Alliance and Suicide Prevention Lab

Graduate Students

Undergraduate Honors Thesis Projects

The role of threat-based beliefs in mental health help-seeking processes for depression

By Jason Chen, Ph.D.

A Doctoral Dissertation Defended in 2016

Project Overview

Mental illness among college students is a significant public health concern. Among mental health issues, one of the most prevalent and impairing is depression. Although many students experience depression, the majority do not seek help. Past research has shown that stigma beliefs are associated with help-seeking, but interventions targeting stigma have been unsuccessful at increasing help-seeking prompting the need to explore alternative models. Currently, there has been little research evaluating the role of threat-based beliefs related to help-seeking processes. As well, it remains unclear how different threat-based beliefs may interact and be related to help-seeking intentions. The purpose of these studies was to develop new measures that assess threat-based beliefs based on facilitating threats, as defined by perceived severity, mortality, loss of functioning, and loss of control threats and obstructing threats, as defined by general stigma, interpersonal rejection, and workplace rejection beliefs. As well, it was hypothesized that facilitating threats would be positively associated with help-seeking intentions and that this relationship would be moderated by obstructing threats such that higher levels of obstructing threats would attenuate the relationship between facilitating threats and help-seeking. Data were analyzed using structural equation modeling. The measurement development phase (N = 240) supported the proposed factor structure with the exclusion of the stigma and severity threat measures. When testing the moderation hypothesis (N = 212), results did not support the hypothesized relationships between facilitating threats, obstructing threats, and help-seeking intentions. The implications of these results for future research, theory, and prevention program directions are discussed.