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Young people avoiding help for mental illness

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

FOTOLIA

FOTOLIA

About a third of youth between 20 to 29 diagnosed with mental illnesses aren’t seeking medical treatment, according to Simon Fraser University researchers.

Dr. Elliot Goldner, director of the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction, said 2015 was the first time this mental health indicator, as a Canada-wide number, had been explored in his annual reports.

The blip for this age group is strange, as across all the other age groups, generally, about 15% to 25% of people with mental illnesses don’t seek treatment.

Additionally, comparative numbers obtained to figure out how many — among those without mental illnesses — also don’t seek medical care, failed to show a similar trend.

“They’ve been told they have some kind of mental health conditions ... one reason is because people may feel that they don’t wish to get help,” Goldner said.

“They might feel, for example, that they would prefer to look after things themselves ... or it could be that their jobs don’t really allow them to get the help they want at the right time of day.”

Goldner said the findings might indicate a trend of how young people are relying on alternatives outside of the traditional family physician.

“They’re more able to access information themselves. There’s a change in the way care is delivered through less reliance on family doctors,” he said.

As an overall average, the report found the number of people in 2012 with unmet mental health needs has reached 26.3% — up from 21.6% in 2002.

“When respondents were asked why they did not get the help they needed, the most common response was that they preferred to self-manage ... Alternatively, the preference to self-manage could be influenced by fears or concerns about the receipt of care, its acceptability and accessibility, and/or associated stigma,” the report said.

“Given the sizeable proportion of people with mental disorders who report unmet need, this indicator is coded red.”