Help seeking and perceived need for mental health care among individuals in Canada with suicidal behaviors

Psychiatr Serv. 2009 Jul;60(7):943-9. doi: 10.1176/ps.2009.60.7.943.


Objective: This study examined and compared help seeking, perceived need, satisfaction with health professionals, and barriers to care in three groups: individuals with a mental disorder without suicidal behaviors, those with suicidal ideation with or without a mental disorder, and those with a suicide attempt with or without a mental disorder in the past year.

Methods: Data came from the Canadian Community Health Survey Cycle 1.2. The sample consisted of 36,984 persons aged 15 years and older (response rate=77%). A total of 4,872 had a mental disorder without suicidal behaviors, 1,234 had suicidal ideation, and 230 had attempted suicide. Multiple logistic regressions were used to examine differences between the three groups after adjusting for sociodemographic factors and the number of mental disorders.

Results: Individuals with suicidal ideation and those with suicide attempts were significantly more likely than those with a mental disorder but no suicidal behaviors to seek help and to perceive a need for care in the past year. However, 48% of individuals reporting suicidal ideation and 24% of individuals reporting a suicide attempt did not seek help and did not perceive a need for help in the past year. Significant differences existed between individuals in the three groups in terms of satisfaction with the care they received and barriers to receiving care in the past year.

Conclusions: Although suicidal ideation and suicide attempts represent a significant source of evaluated need associated with help seeking and perceived need over and above the presence and severity of mental disorders, a significant proportion of individuals with suicidal behaviors did not receive care and did not perceive a need for care. Future research should be directed toward finding better ways to identify these individuals and address barriers to their care and other factors that may interfere with their receiving help.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Canada
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment* / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care* / psychology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care* / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Suicide / prevention & control*
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*
  • Young Adult