Navigating limbo: help-seeking for mental health problems among loved ones of missing persons

Publication Name

Clinical Psychologist


Objective: When a person is missing, those left behind are at increased risk of experiencing mental health difficulties. However, little is known about mental health help-seeking among this population. The current study explored relationships between sociodemographic variables, loss characteristics, psychological symptoms, psychological disorder ”caseness”, and help-seeking behaviour among people with a missing loved one. Method: One hundred and ten people with a missing loved one completed a questionnaire assessing help-seeking and symptoms of psychological distress, prolonged grief and posttraumatic stress. Descriptive statistics, Chi-square tests and binary regression analyses were used for data analysis. Results: Results showed that the majority of participants had not sought help for their mental health, despite high rates of mental health problems. Current help-seeking was significantly associated with caseness of a non-specific mental health disorder but not with prolonged grief or probable posttraumatic stress. Overall, consulting a psychologist or counsellor was the most frequently sought source of help, followed by peers with shared experience. Conclusions: This study highlights help-seeking among people with a missing loved one and suggests further research is needed to support this vulnerable group to access needed mental health help. Implications of findings for service delivery are discussed.

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