Beliefs About the Causes of Mental Illness and Attitudes Towards Seeking Help: A Study of British Jewry
Abstract: Existing research and anecdotal accounts have consistently reported that Jewish people are positively inclined to seek treatment for mental health problems, including making use of psychiatric services and psychotherapy. However, much of this data has been based on samples of American Jewry and there appear to be no existing studies in the UK which have quantitatively investigated whether there are similar help seeking preferences for mental health problems amongst British Jewry. The present study investigated Jewish people’s attitudes and intentions to seek professional help for mental health problems and their experiences of seeking professional help in the UK. Using the theoretical framework of the Theory of Reasoned Action (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980) the study also aimed to determine the strongest predictors of intentions and attempts to seek professional help, according to people’s attitudes, perceived social pressure, beliefs about the causes of mental illness and level of religiosity. The study included 126 Jewish people who were predominantly recruited from synagogues and community centres across the UK. Results indicated that a high percentage of this sample would be willing to see a mental health professional if they experienced a mental health problem. According to multiple regression analysis, attitudes towards seeking professional help and stress-related causal beliefs most strongly predicted intention to seek professional help. Despite the sample being non-clinically recruited, 63% of participants reported that they had experienced a mental health problem and the majority of these individuals had sought professional help in the past. Path analysis revealed that actual attempts to seek professional help were directly influenced by intention to seek professional help, perceived social pressure and supernatural causal beliefs. Given the high prevalence of mental health problems and use of professional mental health services amongst this sample, clinical considerations highlighted the need for preventative mental health strategies and culturally sensitive mental health services for Jewish people. Limitations of the study include the use of an opportunity sample which was unable to recruit members of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.