Association between mental health-related stigma and active help-seeking: systematic review and meta-analysis

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Mental disorders create high individual and societal costs and burden, partly because help-seeking is often delayed or completely avoided. Stigma related to mental disorders or mental health services is regarded as a main reason for insufficient help-seeking.


To estimate the impact of four stigma types (help-seeking attitudes and personal, self and perceived public stigma) on active help-seeking in the general population.


A systematic review of three electronic databases was followed by random effect meta-analyses according to the stigma types.


Twenty-seven studies fulfilled eligibility criteria. Participants' own negative attitudes towards mental health help-seeking (OR = 0.80, 95% CI 0.73–0.88) and their stigmatising attitudes towards people with a mental illness (OR = 0.82, 95% CI 0.69–0.98) were associated with less active help-seeking. Self-stigma showed insignificant association (OR = 0.88, 95% CI 0.76–1.03), whereas perceived public stigma was not associated.


Personal attitudes towards mental illness or help-seeking are associated with active help-seeking for mental problems. Campaigns promoting help-seeking and fighting mental illness-related stigma should target these personal attitudes rather than broad public opinion.

Declaration of interest


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