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BMC Psychiatry. 2019 Nov 29;19(1):373. doi: 10.1186/s12888-019-2316-z.

Help-seeking behaviors among Chinese people with mental disorders: a cross-sectional study.

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Tianjin Mental Health Institute, Tianjin Anding Hospital, No. 13, Liulin Road, Hexi district, Tianjin, 300222, China.
Department of Psychiatry, Interdisciplinary Center Psychopathology and Emotion regulation (ICPE), University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Hanzeplein 1, 9713, GZ, Groningen, The Netherlands.
Tianjin Mental Health Institute, Tianjin Anding Hospital, No. 13, Liulin Road, Hexi district, Tianjin, 300222, China.



Failure to seek treatment for mental health disorders is a serious public health concern. Unfortunately, there is little insight into help-seeking and its associated factors in China which has undergone rapid economic development in the past 30 years and has an increasing prevalence of mental disorder. Therefore, this study aimed to (1) investigate help-seeking rates in healthcare and non-healthcare settings and (2) investigate the correlates of help-seeking behavior in a large Chinese survey.


Data came from the Tianjin Mental Health Survey (TJMHS), a representative sample of adult community residents in the Chinese municipality of Tianjin (n = 11,748). Of these, 1759 individuals had ≥1 axis-I diagnosis according to the Diagnostic and Statistical manual- fourth edition (DSM-IV) and were administered a Help-Seeking Questionnaire.


15.7% of patients reported that they had ever sought help during their entire lifetime before the interview, with 4.5% seeking help in mental healthcare, 3.2% in other healthcare and 8.1% in non-healthcare settings (e.g., family, friends, and spiritual advisor). Among help-seekers, the first help was mostly sought in non-healthcare settings (58.4%), followed by healthcare (27.5%) and mental healthcare settings (24.5%). Female gender, younger age, having 7-9 years vs 0-6 years of education, a low income, a psychotic disorder and having ≥2 disorders were associated with increased help-seeking. Older age, being married and having a psychotic or organic disorder were associated with increased help-seeking in healthcare vs. non-healthcare settings.


A small percentage of persons with mental disorders in the Tianjin region seek help and among those who do, variations in the types of help-seeking may be partially explained by demographic and clinical characteristics.


China; Help seeking; Mental disorder; Mental healthcare; Treatment

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