Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology




School of Arts and Humanities




Ishikawa, A., Rickwood, D., Bariola, E., & Bhullar, N. (2023). Autonomy versus support: Self-reliance and help-seeking for mental health problems in young people. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 58, 489-499.



Many young people with mental ill-health do not seek support, and developmental growth in self-reliance may be a barrier to help-seeking. Increasing autonomy is a positive developmental task for youth and a key aspect of resilience. This study examined the influence of perceived social support and resilience on the previously unexamined relationship between self-reliance and intentions to seek help from informal, professional, and self-help sources for mental health problems.


An online survey was completed by a representative Australian community sample of 5,203 young people aged 12–25 years (half female), in May–June 2020.


Path analysis showed the hypothesised conceptual model did not fit the data well, but a modified model was a good fit. Higher self-reliance was associated with lower intentions to seek informal and professional help, as expected, but not with greater intentions for self-help. The relationship between self-reliance and informal help-seeking intentions was fully mediated by perceived social support, whereas the relationship between self-reliance and professional help-seeking was also direct. Perceived social support fully mediated the relationship between self-reliance and resilience. Intentions to use self-help were not influenced by variables in the study, but higher self-help intentions were associated with higher professional help-seeking intentions. Associations were consistent across age and gender groups.


The results show the critical role of social support for combating some of the unhelpful aspects of self-reliance for mental health help-seeking in young people. Future research should explore how self-reliance can hinder or be harnessed to facilitate accessing appropriate mental health.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.