Asian Journal of Counselling

Symptom Attribution and Preferred Sources of Help for Psychiatric Symptoms of University Students in Singapore

2007.第14卷第1及2期(Vol. 14 Nos. 1 & 2).pp. 49–90

Symptom Attribution and Preferred Sources of Help for Psychiatric Symptoms of University Students in Singapore


Boon-Ooi LEE(李文維)


Past research has shown that Asians underutilize mental health services. One way to increase the use of such services is to understand their causal beliefs and help-seeking behaviors. The aim of this study was to examine how causal attributions of three types of psychiatric symptoms (depressive, anxious, and schizophrenic) were associated with preferred sources of help among a group of university students in Singapore. Cross-sectional data were collected through a survey questionnaire with symptom vignettes and examined by path analyses. Main results showed that endorsements of causal attributions varied by symptoms; for example, depressive and anxious symptoms were more likely than schizophrenic symptoms to be attributed to psychosocial causation. Based on separate path analyses for every symptom type, both psychosocial and biomedical causations were correlated with each other, which in turn were associated with various sources of help. Psychosocial causation was associated with the source of friend/classmate whereas biomedical causation was associated with the sources of medical doctor, mental health professional, and alternative medical practitioner. Seeking helps from these professional sources were also correlated with each other. These findings suggest that causal attributions, particularly biomedical dimensions of psychiatric symptoms, should be highlighted when implementing relevant mental health services for university students; and they may be receptive to a holistic treatment team consisting of friends, medical doctors, mental health professionals, and alternative medical practitioners.