Do difficulties with emotions inhibit help-seeking in adolescence? The role of age and emotional competence in predicting help-seeking intentions
We examined whether adolescents who are poor at identifying, describing, and managing their emotions (emotional competence) have lower intentions to seek help for their personal-emotional problems and suicidal ideation, as observed in adult studies. We also examined whether age moderated the relationship between competence and help-seeking. Two hundred and seventeen adolescents completed measures of emotional competence, help-seeking, hopelessness, and social support. Results indicated that adolescents who were low in emotional competence had the lowest intentions to seek help from informal sources (i.e., family and friends) and from some formal sources (e.g., mental health professionals), and the highest intentions to seek help from no-one. There was one important age-related qualification: difficulty in identifying and describing emotions was associated with higher help-seeking intentions amongst young adolescents but lower intentions among older adolescents. Social support, hopelessness, and sex could not entirely explain these relationships. Thus, even those who had high quality social support had less intention to use it if they were low in emotional competence.