Examining determinants of seeking help for depression: implications for effective health promotion messages Academic Article uri icon


  • 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Background: Even though college students are particularly vulnerable to depression, most of those who are affected do not seek the help they need. Communication interventions could help promote help-seeking and motivate depressed college students to make an appointment with a health professional. Remarkably, guidance on how such health messages should look like are largely absentwith few exceptions. Adding to the urgency to find better ways to communicate with those who suffer from depression, recent research has pointed to potential negative effects if the unique characteristics of depression are not considered in the health communication intervention context. Method: To advance understanding of the effects of health promotion messages, this experiment utilized the reasoned action framework to investigate college students perceptions of and intentions to seek help after viewing either a gain- (n = 75) or a loss-framed (n = 78) depression help-seeking message. Results: Findings revealed that in this sample of students, gain-and loss-framing did not influence determinants of help-seekingan encouraging finding, given the emerging empirical evidence of unintended negative effects of health promotion messages in this vulnerable population. Regardless of message framing, this study identified outcome expectations and, to a lesser extent, subjective feelings regarding help-seeking as most important determinants of intentions to seek help. Conclusions: Accordingly, health promotion messages should focus on reinforcing, rather than attempting to change, the already positive outcome expectations of seeking help for depression in order to prompt timely help-seeking and improve overall mental health among college students.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Communications In Healthcare

author list (cited authors)

  • Lueck, J. A.

citation count

  • 5

complete list of authors

  • Lueck, Jennifer A

publication date

  • January 2018