Formal and Informal Help-Seeking for Mental Health Problems. A Survey of Preferences of Italian Students

Barbara D’Avanzo1, *, Angelo Barbato1, Stefano Erzegovesi2, Letizia Lampertico3, Filippo Rapisarda1, Lella Valsecchi3
1 Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, Via La Masa 19 – 20156 Milan, Italy
2 San Raffaele Turro Hospital, Via Stamira d’Ancona 20 - 20127 Milan, Italy
3 Progetto Itaca, Via Volta 7/a – 20121 Milan, Italy

Article Metrics

CrossRef Citations:
Total Statistics:

Full-Text HTML Views: 745
Abstract HTML Views: 364
PDF Downloads: 325
Total Views/Downloads: 1434
Unique Statistics:

Full-Text HTML Views: 516
Abstract HTML Views: 268
PDF Downloads: 245
Total Views/Downloads: 1029

Creative Commons License
© D’Avanzo et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Laboratory of Epidemiology and Social Psychiatry Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research Via La Masa 19, 20156 Milan, Italy; Tel: 00390239014520; Fax: 00390239014300; E-mail:


Help-seeking preferences for mental health are a crucial aspect to design strategies to support adolescents in an emotionally delicate life phase. Informal help-seeking is usually preferred but little was published about preferences in different cultures, and it is not clear whether informal and formal help are mutually exclusive or whether they are part of the same overall propensity to help-seeking. In a survey of 710 students in Milan, Italy, help-seeking propensity measured through an Italian version of the General Help-Seeking Questionnaire was high, similar in males and females (mean total score 3.8, DS 0.9); few (9%) tended not to seek help. The most-preferred source of help was a friend, then father or mother, partner, psychologist and psychiatrist. 355 students (55%) reported high propensity to seek both informal and formal help; 33 (5%) would only seek formal help. Help-seeking should be promoted in itself, rather than indicating professionals and professional settings as primary sources of help.

Keywords: Help-seeking, mental health, adolescents, school, formal help, informal help.