Help-negation and suicidal ideation: the role of depression, anxiety and hopelessness

J Youth Adolesc. 2010 Mar;39(3):291-305. doi: 10.1007/s10964-009-9487-8. Epub 2009 Dec 2.


Help-negation is expressed behaviorally by the refusal or avoidance of available help and cognitively by the inverse relationship between self-reported symptoms of psychological distress and help-seeking intentions. The current study examined the association between suicidal ideation and intentions to seek help from friends, family and professional mental health sources in a sample of 302 Australian university students. Participants were 77.5% female and aged from 18-25 years old, with 85.4% aged 21 years or younger. Higher levels of suicidal ideation were related to lower help-seeking intentions for family, friends, and professional mental health care, and higher intentions to seek help from no one. Moderation effects indicated that higher levels of depressive symptoms strengthen the help-negating effect of suicidal ideation for seeking help from friends, family and no one. The results indicate that, even at subclinical levels, suicidal ideation impedes the cognitive help-seeking process at the decision making stage. The results also highlight the importance of improving our understanding of why young people become reluctant to seek help as their levels of suicidal ideation and depressive symptoms increase. Raising awareness that the experience of suicidal ideation and depressive symptoms can promote intentions to avoid help might reduce the help-negation effect when symptoms are first recognized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Helping Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Refusal*
  • Young Adult