A qualitative study of understanding depression and help-seeking behaviour among rural school-going adolescents in India

  • Sachin Shinde Harvard T H Chan School of Public health
  • Prachi Khandeparkar
  • Bernadette Pereira
  • Amit Sharma
Keywords: Depression; mental health; adolescents; help-seeking behaviour; qualitative; India


Depression is a common mental illness occurring in a high percentage in Indian adolescents. However, a little research focused on Indian adolescents' knowledge of and views about help-seeking behaviour for depression. This qualitative study investigated the school-going adolescents’ attitudes towards and help-seeking strategies for dealing with depression. We conducted twelve focus group discussions with one hundred boys and girls from six government-run secondary schools of Nalanda district of Bihar, India. Participants were asked questions to elicit their understanding and causes of depression, and available help and treatment for depression in their communities. Coding of prominent themes and words from transcribed discussions were entered in NVivo 10 for qualitative analysis. Three themes emerged: (1) adolescents' description of depression; (2) beliefs about adolescent depression; and (3) help-seeking and treatment for adolescent depression. Students used local language terms to describe depression, which included negative behavioural symptoms such as sadness, irritability, social withdrawal, and lack of concentration. Both male and female participants agreed that girls experience more depression than boys. Students reported that the first point of contact is mostly the family member followed by a religious healer due to easy availability and low costs. While depressive symptoms among adolescents in India are common and recognized, resource and treatment knowledge are scarce. An understanding of the beliefs, attitudes, and knowledge of these adolescents can provide crucial information for developing the content of already existing school-based mental health programs and/or provide structure for a universal, school-based mental health awareness program.

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