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Daniel Lannin

Mentor Department



A.   Purpose The purpose of the present study is to examine whether mental distress and self-stigma predict online mental health information-seeking in at-risk youth. Seeking such information is important because it is the initial step taken in addressing mental health concerns (Oh, Jorm, & Wright, 2009). There is evidence that increased mental distress is a primary motivating factor behind seeking online mental health information, whereas self-stigma (the internalization of negative societal beliefs about help-seekers) may be a barrier (Lannin, Vogel, Brenner, Abaham, & Heath, 2016). However, research has not examined these relationships in at-risk youth, a population for whom mental health literacy and openness to mental health information may be particularly relevant, which is the aim of the current study. B.   Procedure During fall of 2018, in Champaign county, 171 youth aged 15-19, participating in the Champaign Area Relationship Education for Youth (CARE4U) program, completed pretest survey data. Participants completed questionnaires assessing distress and self-stigma. They were then offered to decide whether to read information about mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety. Surveys were administered on tablets once parent permission and child assent were obtained. C.   Results To aid interpretation of results, (a) self-stigma scores were standardized, and (b) a clinical level of distress was calculated from Kessler's k6+ distress measure (Kessler et al., 2002) wherein 1= low distress, 2= moderate distress, and 3= severe distress (cf. Prochaska, Sung, Max, Shi, & Ong, 2012). Multiple logistic regression analysis was conducted, with level of distress entered at step 1 and self-stigma entered as step 2. Level of distress was a significant predictor of whether students opted to read more mental health information (b = .86, p < .001, eb = 2.37). This result indicates that increases from low distress to moderate distress (or from moderate distress to high distress) increase the odds of deciding to read online mental health information by 2.37, controlling for self-stigma. Contrary to the hypothesis, self-stigma was not a statistically significant predictor of pursuing mental health information (β = −0.21, p = .22, eb = 0.81). An exploratory test of the interaction between distress and self-stigma was non-significant, p = .301. D.   Conclusions The present study found that distress was a positive predictor of decisions to seek online mental health information; however, contrary to expectations, self-stigma was not predictive. It is possible that other factors besides self-stigma may constitute help-seeking barriers, suggesting the need for additional research within this population.

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