Rapid economic growth and social change in China in recent years have been accompanied by increased rates of mental health problems among the country’s adolescents. This study examined rates of mental health service use and associated factors among Chinese adolescents.
A survey of 1,891 high school students in grades ten through 12 from three high schools in Shantou, China, was conducted in 2009. Measures of mental health status, service need (perceived and objective), mental health service use, and informal help seeking were obtained.
Twenty-five percent of the adolescents reported a perceived need for the services of a mental health professional. Only 5% of the sample had used school-based mental health services and only 4% had used non–school-based services. Three factors emerged as independently associated with adolescent use of both school-based and non–school-based services: perceiving a need for mental health services, having turned to a teacher for help, and having turned to a relative other than one’s parents for help. Male gender, being a 12th grader, and being an only child were independently associated with use of school-based services only, whereas a suicide attempt and having turned to one’s parents for help were independently associated with use of non–school-based services.
Findings indicate a high level of unmet need for mental health services among Chinese adolescents and highlight the need to improve the mental health knowledge of parents, teachers, and other significant individuals in adolescents’ lives to facilitate adolescents’ access to the mental health services that they need.