Mental disorders and help seeking in a rural impoverished population

Jeanne C. Fox, Michael Blank, Jessica Berman, Virginia G. Rovnyak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Objective: This study examined the impact of an in-home screening and educational intervention on help seeking among rural impoverished individuals with unseated mental disorders. The effect of including a significant other in the intervention and reasons for not seeking help were explored. Method: The sample was randomly selected from households in nine rural counties in Virginia. The short form of the CIDI was used to screen 646 adult residents. Respondents who screened positive were randomly assigned to one of three groups: 1) no intervention, 2) an educational intervention, or 3) the educational intervention with a significant other. A list of local sources of health and mental health care was distributed. At one-month post interview, respondents were telephoned to inquire about help seeking. Results: Almost one-third (32.4%) of these respondents screened positive for at least one disorder. Five hundred and sixty-six (87.6%) were successfully followed up, and thirty-three of the 566 (5.8%) reported that they had sought professional help since the interview. Eighty-four subjects who screened positive and received the educational intervention reported in follow up that they had discussed the interview with a friend or family member, but only eleven (13.1%) received encouragement to seek treatment. The predominant reason endorsed for not seeking help was 'felt there was no need,' even among respondents who were informed that they had a disorder. Conclusions: A significant proportion of this rural impoverished sample screened positive for a mental disorder. Few individuals sought professional help and significant others did not encourage them to seek treatment. The implication of these results for investigators and service providers is that motivating individuals to seek mental health services is a complex process; more attention must be devoted to the development of culturally relevant methods for facilitating help seeking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-195
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Helping behavior
  • Mental disorders
  • Mental health
  • Mental health services
  • Poverty areas
  • Rural health services
  • Rural population


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