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Many people with mental health problems do not seek professional help but their use of other sources of help is unclear.
To investigate patterns of lay and professional help-seeking in men and women aged 16–64 years in relation to severity of symptoms and sociodemographic variables.
Postal questionnaire survey, including the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ–12), sent to a stratified random sample (n=15222) of the population of Somerset.
The response rate was 76%. Only 28% of people with extremely high GHQ–12 scores (⩾8) had sought help from their general practitioner but most (78%) had sought some form of help. Males, young people and people living in affluent areas were the least likely to seek help.
Health promotion interventions to encourage appropriate help-seeking behaviour in young people, particularly in men, may lead to improvements in the mental health of this group of the population.
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