Finding a way: a grounded theory of young people's experience of the pathway to mental health care
ObjectiveThe purpose of this grounded theory study was to explore how young people experienced the onset of mental health problems and to investigate their initial interactions with the health system.DesignGrounded theory was used to address the study objectives. Data were obtained through indepth semistructured interviews.SettingParticipants were recruited through two community health centres in a Sydney metropolitan area health service.SubjectsThe purposive sample consisted of eight males and twelve females between the ages of eighteen and twenty five (mean age was 21).Main outcome measuresThe research identified a basic social process, a core category or central phenomenon which had the characteristics of a maze through which the participants had to struggle to find a way. The process of finding a way has four stages. These are (a) first sign in the early stages, often involving denial or fear, and selfmedication with alcohol or other drugs; (b) recognition of the symptoms as a sign of mental illness; (c) understanding, discovering information about the illness; and (d) resolution, when care is successfully accessed. At each stage, barriers and/or facilitating factors either delay or speed progress.ConclusionsThe study offers insights into the experiences of a small group of individuals and hence has limitations; however this theoretical approach provides an understanding of what finding a way means to this group of participants and how it influences their lives. It offers a framework for understanding some of the cultural and contextual factors that affect young peoples pathways into mental health services and can inform interventions.