Factors Impacting Singaporeans’ Intention to Seek Professional Counselling

2016-12-05T03:33:34Z (GMT) by Siew Khim Goh
Along with Singapore’s rapid economic development has come increasing levels of vocational, educational, financial, personal, and emotional challenges for its citizens. Indeed, mental health statistics suggest there are those, especially working adults, who face significant challenges to their mental health and wellbeing. These challenges have been recognised by the Singaporean government who have, in turn, provided both community and school-based counselling support services. However, by international standards these services have been significantly underused by the Singaporean population. Accordingly, the aim of the present study was to examine Singaporeans’ help-seeking behaviour related to their intention to seek help from professional counsellors and to provide data and predictors expanding why some sought help and others hesitated to seek support from a counsellor. A mixed methods design that included focus groups, an analytical questionnaire, representative of the Singaporean population, and a series of post-survey interviews. A total of 564 participants with ages ranging from 18 to 75 years responded to the survey. The survey questionnaire consisted of a series of demographic questions and five self-report measures, the Suinn-Lew Asian Self-identify Acculturation Scale- Modified (SL-ASIA-M) the Attitude Towards Seeking Psychological Help Scale – Shortened – Modified (ATSPHS-S-M); the Stigma Scale for Receiving Professional Psychological Help – Modified (SSRPPH-M); the Self-stigma of Seeking Psychological Help Scale Modified (SSSPHS-M); and the Intention to Seek Counselling -Modified (ISCI-M). The results from the focus group highlighted gender, culture, age, socioeconomic status, prior experience with counselling, attitudes toward counselling, and stigma as being linked to their intention to seek counselling and were in line with those identified in previously published literature. Results from the large analytical survey revealed that an individual’s attitude to counselling was the strongest predictor of them seeking help from a professional counsellor, followed by ethnicity, social stigma and marital status. Finally, three new themes emerged from the post-survey interviews: trust issues, preference for a same or different gender counsellor and time issues such as wait time and counsellor availability. As the strongest predictor, attitude to seeking counselling appeared to be influenced by the Asian attitude towards acknowledging mental health issues and the sharing of such issues with non-family members. In contrast, the Malay community appeared to have overcome, at least to some extent the stigma surrounding counselling, although their contact with counsellors were typically within the Muslim community. To overcome the burdens and hazards of untreated mental health issues the Singaporean government along with other private providers will have to address cultural attitudes to counselling if a greater proportion of the population are to be assisted by that profession.