Methods: We used a mixed mode design consisting of both online sampling via Qualtrics recruited from psychology subject pool and paper surveys distributed directly to undergraduates (N = 223) from various departments in a private, Midwestern university. Participants were primarily young adults (M = 19.9, SD = 2.3), female identifying (84.3%, n = 188), and white (76.6%, n = 170). All class levels were represented: freshman (37.84%, n = 84); sophomores (17.12%, n = 38); juniors (20.72%, n = 46); seniors (24.32%, n = 54). Bivariate relationships among self-stigma and study variables were explored prior to using multiple OLS regression to test the relationship of the self-stigma to two components of help seeking behaviors (openness towards and perceived utility help-seeking), hope (agency and pathways), and social support when adjusting for demographic variables.
Findings: Correlation analyses showed self-stigma was inversely associated with social support (r = -.18, p = .005), agency (r = -.21, p = .002), pathways (r = - .32, p < .001), openness toward help-seeking (r = -.49, p < .001) and valuing the utility of help-seeking (r = -.48, p < .001). The regression results accounted for 35.7% of the variance in self-stigma scores (F(10, 208) = 11.57, p < .001, R2adj = .327). Greater openness to help-seeking (β = -.31, p < .001) and the perceived utility of help-seeking (β = -.29, p < .001) were inversely associated with self-stigma. Hope, operationalized as agency and pathways, accounted for 4.3% of the variance in self-stigma scores (p = .001), but only hope-pathways was significantly associated with lower self-stigma (β = -.23, p = .002). Class level, gender, race, and social support did not significantly contribute to the model (p > .05).
Conclusions and Implications: Self-stigma of seeking help for mental distress was associated with less openness and lower perceived utility for seeking help, as well as less belief in having pathways to attain goals. Gender and racial differences in self-stigma were unobserved possibly due to low representation of males and racial/ethnic minorities in the sample. Researchers may build from current findings to inform experimental studies aimed at identifying intra- and interpersonal factors contributing to self-stigma. Researchers and mental health professionals serving in undergraduate settings may consider how motivational interviewing approaches may enhance help-seeking for mental distress.