Barriers to Mental Health Help Seeking at School for Asian– and Latinx–American Adolescents

  • Cixin WangEmail author
  • Julia Barlis
  • Kieu Anh Do
  • Jingqiu Chen
  • Sandra Alami
Original Paper


Adolescents are most likely to receive mental health services in schools compared to other settings; however, few studies have examined barriers to mental health help seeking at school for ethnic minority adolescents. The current mixed-methods study utilized surveys and semi-structured interviews to explore the mental health literacy (MHL), stigma toward mental illness, and perceived barriers toward help seeking at middle or high schools among 55 adolescents (81.8% female; 50.0% Asian–American, 44.6% Latinx–American, 5.4% Asian/Latinx bi-racial; M age = 17.13 years, SD = 2.33). Participants’ MHL was assessed using case vignettes that depicted adolescents with symptoms of depression or bulimia. Overall, 83.9% of participants correctly recognized depression and 57.1% correctly recognized bulimia from the vignettes. Stigma correlated with perceived helpfulness of the formal service providers (r = − .37, p < .01). Qualitative analysis of participant interviews revealed important knowledge, attitudinal, and practical barriers that inhibit Asian– and Latinx–American adolescents from seeking help for mental health problems at school. The current work has implications to assist school personnel and mental health providers in understanding and reducing barriers to help seeking for Asian– and Latinx–American adolescents.


Mental health literacy Barriers for help seeking Stigma Asian–American Latinx–American 



This project was supported by funding from Psychological Association (APA), Promoting Psychological Research and Training on Health Disparities Issues at Ethnic Minority Serving Institutions (ProDIGs) Small Research Grant, as well as funding from Mini-Grant from Undergraduate Education Research Department at Univeristy of California, Riverside.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education, Faculty Affiliate Asian American Studies ProgramUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special EducationUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Human EcologyUniversity of Maryland Eastern ShorePrincess AnneUSA
  4. 4.Antai College of Economics and ManagementShanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaRiversideUSA

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