Barriers to help-seeking for mental health among autistic young adults: a qualitative study

Coleman-Fountain, Edmund, Buckley, Carole and Beresford, Bryony (2019) Barriers to help-seeking for mental health among autistic young adults: a qualitative study. British Journal of General Practice. ISSN 0960-1643 (In Press)

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Background: Autistic people are at increased risk of developing mental health problems. To reduce the negative impact of living with autism in a non-autistic world, efforts to improve take-up and access to care and support in early years – which will typically start with a GP appointment – must be grounded in the accounts of autistic young adults.Aim: To explore how autistic young adults understand and manage mental health problems; to consider help-seeking as a focus.Design and Setting: A cross-sectional, qualitative study. Participants from an existing cohort were purposively selected to represent a range of mental health conditions in this group, including anxiety and depression.Methods: Nineteen autistic young adults without learning disabilities (23-24 years) were recruited. In-depth, semi-structured interviews explored how they understood and managed mental health problems. Data were analysed thematically.Results: Young adults preferred self-management strategies. Multiple factors contributed to a focus on self-management, including: beliefs about the aetiology of mental health difficulties within the context of diagnosis of autism, communication differences, and a view that formal support was not available or not adequate. Families had limited awareness of professional support.Conclusions: Young autistic adults without learning disabilities, and their families, may hold erroneous beliefs about autism and mental health. This may affect help-seeking and contribute to an exacerbation of symptoms. GPs need to be alert that autistic young adults in their care may be experiencing mental health difficulties but may not recognise them as such.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Autism, Help-Seeking Behaviour, mental health, primary health care, qualitative research, young adult
Subjects: L500 Social Work
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 02 Oct 2019 10:00
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2019 13:33

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