Seeking and accessing professional support for child anxiety in a community sample.
Reardon T., Harvey K., Creswell C.
There is a lack of current data on help-seeking, and barriers to accessing professional support for child anxiety disorders. This study aimed to provide current data on the frequency and type of parental help-seeking, professional support received, and parent-reported barriers/facilitators in the context of child anxiety, and to explore factors associated with help-seeking, and parent-reported barriers among help-seekers and non help-seekers. We conducted a survey of help-seeking in parents of 222 children (aged 7-11) with elevated anxiety symptoms identified through screening in schools, 138 children of whom met diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder. Almost two-thirds (64.5%) of parents of children with an anxiety disorder reported seeking help from a professional; in 38.4% of cases parents reported that their child had received support from a professional to help manage and overcome their anxiety difficulties, and < 3% had received evidence-based treatment (CBT). Frequently reported parental barriers related to difficulties differentiating between developmentally appropriate and clinically significant anxiety, a lack of help-seeking knowledge, perceived negative consequences of help-seeking, and limited service provision. Non-help seekers were more likely than help seekers to report barriers related to thinking a child's anxiety may improve without professional support, and the absence of professional recognition. Findings identify the need for (i) tools for parents and primary school staff to help identify children who may benefit from professional support to overcome difficulties with anxiety; and (ii) increased evidence-based provision for child anxiety disorders, including delivery within schools and direct support for parents.