Context: Doctors are often reluctant to seek health care through the usual channels and tend to self-diagnose and prescribe. Medical students learn attitudes and values from clinician role models and may also adopt behaviour patterns that lead them to seek help for physical and mental health problems from informal sources.
Objectives: This study aimed to explore the behaviour of students in seeking health care for physical and mental health problems, comparing medical with psychology students, and to understand what barriers to conventional routes of seeking health care may affect this.
Methods: We administered a questionnaire asking for demographic details and responses to 2 vignettes in which a student from the respondent's discipline was experiencing firstly symptoms of a mental health problem and secondly symptoms of a physical health problem. Data were analysed with spss and univariate anovas to examine differences between respondents.
Results: A total of 172 students at the psychology and medical schools at James Cook University in Australia participated. We identified a number of barriers affecting student behaviour in seeking help, which included worries about knowing the doctor they could consult at the university health centre or having future dealings with him or her, and cost of treatment. There were differences between the 2 groups of students.
Discussion: There are several barriers for both psychology and medical students to accessing appropriate professional mental health care. Medical students also experience barriers to attaining appropriate physical health care when needed. Psychology and medical students were more likely to seek advice informally from friends and/or family with regard to mental health care.