Factors That Influence Whether Adolescents Seek Help for Depression

Clinical intervention focusing on parental involvement may be effective in combating depression in children.

Published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, study data from Tokyo, Japan, indicate that gender norms negatively affect the likelihood of male children seeking help for depression. Survey data also indicated that children with a parent who reported help-seeking intention were more likely themselves to have help-seeking intention.  

A total of 4478 10-year-old children and their parents registered with the Tokyo Early Adolescence Survey completed self-report questionnaires and in-person interviews. The surveys assessed help-seeking intention with a depression “vignette” that described symptoms of the disorder and asked respondents if they would seek help in such a situation. The researchers also captured demographic, psychological, and social factors, as well as psychotic-like symptoms, tendency to help classmates, and help-seeking behavior in children.

Girls were more likely to seek help than boys (P <.001), and survey data indicated that social and gender norms inhibited the intention to seek help for depression in boys more strongly than in girls (P =.02). According to multivariate logistic regression analyses, factors positively associated with help-seeking intention included the recognition of a need for help, emotional openness, tendency to help classmates, and parents’ positive intention of seeking help for depression (all P <.001). Children able to name a single confidant were 14 times more likely to have a help-seeking intention than children who could not (P <.001). Depressive (P <.001) symptoms and psychotic-like experiences (P =.038) were both inversely associated with help-seeking intention.

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These data indicate that clinical intervention focusing on parental involvement may be effective in combating depression in children. In addition, challenging gender norms that “[presume] boys should solve their own problems” may also be an effective therapeutic target.


Ando S, Nishida A, Usami S, et al. Help-seeking intention for depression in early adolescents: associated factors and sex differences [published online June 7, 2018]. J Affect Disord. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2018.05.077