Originally published by 2 Minute Medicine® (view original article). Reused on AccessMedicine with permission.

1. In this systematic review, there were delays and an overall decrease in help-seeking behavior for mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Furthermore, the most prevalent barrier to help-seeking behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic was stigma.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

Help-seeking behavior is crucial in the treatment of several mental health conditions. Unfortunately, given public health restrictions and resulting communication changes that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, these behaviors may have been impacted. Currently, there is a lack of evidence providing insight into barriers to help-seeking behavior. As a result, the objective of the present systematic review was to investigate the impact of help-seeking behavior on mental health in various populations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of 841 identified articles, 41 studies from database inception to May 2022 were included in the final analysis. Studies were included if they were conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic and addressed help-seeking behavior for mental health. The study results were divided into 9 populations, including medical professionals, local residents, hospitals, children and adolescents, online participants, pregnant women, individuals who experienced intimate partner violence (IPV), individuals with eating disorders, and others. The systematic review was prepared using PRISMA guidelines. The primary outcome was help-seeking behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results demonstrated that most studies found decreases in help-seeking behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most important barrier to help-seeking behavior was stigma, which affected ethnic minorities, youth, men, those in the military, and health professionals more than other populations. With respect to health professionals, barriers to help-seeking behavior included: heavy workload, preference for self-reliance, risk of infection, and poor mental health. However, the heterogeneity of the included studies prevented a meta-analysis, which impacted the conclusions that can be drawn from the study. Nonetheless, the present study provided a strong rationale for continuing research on the impact of the pandemic on help-seeking behavior and mental health in various populations.

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