Sub-Saharan African migrant youths' help-seeking barriers and facilitators for mental health and substance use problems: a qualitative study Academic Article uri icon


  • Many young migrants and their parents are reluctant to seek help for mental health and substance use problems. Help-seeking delays can result in longer duration of untreated problems and poorer outcomes. In this study, we aimed to identify the help-seeking barriers and facilitators for anxiety, depression and alcohol and drug use problems in young people from recently established sub-Saharan African migrant communities.A qualitative study, incorporating individual, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, was undertaken in Melbourne, Australia. Twenty-eight young sub-Saharan African migrants participated in the individual interviews, and 41 sub-Saharan African-born parents and key community leaders participated in 4 focus groups. All participants were aged 16 years or over. A thematic analysis of the data was undertaken.Themes and related sub-themes were abstracted from the data, reflecting the young people's, parents' and key community leaders' beliefs about barriers and facilitators to help-seeking for mental health and substance use problems. Four help-seeking barriers were identified: stigma of mental illness, lack of mental health literacy in parents and young people, lack of cultural competency of formal help sources, and financial costs deterring access. Five help-seeking facilitators were abstracted: being open with friends and family, strong community support systems, trustworthiness and confidentiality of help-sources, perceived expertise of formal help-sources, increasing young people's and parents' mental health literacy.Programs that identify and build on help-seeking facilitators while addressing help-seeking barriers are needed to address mental health issues among young sub-Saharan African migrants. Strategies to address help-seeking barriers should consider counteracting stigma and increasing mental health literacy in sub-Saharan African communities, increasing health providers' cultural competency and perceived trustworthiness, and addressing financial barriers to accessing services.

publication date

  • 2016