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Aging Ment Health. 2005 Jul;9(4):363-7.

Beliefs about mental illness and willingness to seek help: a cross-sectional study.

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Department of sychology, University of Colorodo at Colorodo Springs, CO 80933-7150, USA.


Evidence indicates that older adults underutilize mental health services, but little is known empirically about the perceptions older adults have about mental illness and their attitudes about seeking professional help for psychological problems. The present study examined beliefs about mental illness and willingness to seek professional help among younger (n=96; M age=20.6 years; range=17-26 years) and older (n=79; M age=75.1 years; range=60-95 years) persons. Participants completed the Beliefs Toward Mental Illness Scale and the Willingness to Seek Help Questionnaire. Older adults had generally similar perceptions of mental illness as younger adults except that older adults were more likely to perceive the mentally ill as being embarrassing and having poor social skills. Older adults also did not report a lower willingness to seek psychological help. Correlational analyses showed that, among older adults, increases in negative attitudes about mental illness (specifically, the view that the mentally ill have poor interpersonal skills) are associated with decreases in willingness to seek psychological services. An implication is that negative stereotypes about mental illness held by some older adults could play a role in their underutilization of mental health services. Other barriers to mental health care are also discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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