Seeking Professional Help: Etiology Beliefs About Mental Illness Across Cultures

Xiaohua Sylvia Chen, Winnie W.S. Mak

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

129 Citations (Scopus)


In the present study, the authors examined the contributions of cultural beliefs about the etiology of mental illness to the seeking of help from mental health professionals among college students in 4 cultural groups, European Americans, Chinese Americans, Hong Kong Chinese, and Mainland Chinese. Group differences were found in help-seeking history and likelihood, with European and Chinese Americans being more likely to seek help than Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese. Multiple-group path analysis showed that lay beliefs about causes of mental illness and prior help-seeking history significantly predicted help-seeking likelihood, which was related positively to environmental/hereditary causes but negatively to social-personal causes. Our findings demonstrate the importance of understanding help-seeking patterns within specific cultural contexts and the effects of Western influences on shaping help-seeking propensities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-450
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Counseling Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2008


  • Americans
  • Chinese
  • culture
  • help-seeking
  • lay beliefs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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