Association between descriptive and injunctive norms and students' intentions to seek support from mental health services
This study explores the factors involved in the intention to seek support from mental health services among students, emphasising the role of subjective norms in this process.
Factors involved in students’ intentions to seek support from mental health services were explored using regression analysis, based on survey data from 1,494 Russian students (from high schools, vocational schools and universities). Independent variables included perceived injunctive and descriptive norms towards mental health help-seeking, previous experience of utilising mental health services and mental health symptoms.
Less than a quarter of students had the intention to seek psychological help in case of distress. Just half of the students felt that others would support them in seeking psychological help (injunctive social norms), although only 10% believed their peers would seek help when needed (descriptive norms). Only injunctive, but not descriptive, social norms were associated with the intention to seek help. Experience of visiting a psychologist (only in the case of self-referral) was another important predictor of intention to seek help. Male students and those who considered their mental health to be bad or perfect showed less intention to seek help.
Provision of mental health services for students should be accompanied by interventions aimed at establishing positive attitudes towards mental health-seeking among the general population, particularly those whose opinion is important for students. A gender-specific approach should be introduced in delivering and promoting mental health care since male students are more hesitant to accept care and might face strong negative feedback from their social environment when doing so.