Development and Preliminary Validation of a Scale to Measure Self‑Efficacy in Seeking Mental Health Care (SE‑SMHC)

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Purpose: Globally, the prevalence of mental illness is on the rise, although few people with psychiatric disorders actually seek mental health care. One under-researched factor that may impact help-seeking behavior from health care professionals is self-efficacy. This research presents the development and validation of the Self-Efficacy to Seek Mental Health Care (SE-SMHC) scale, a nine item-self report measure. It was hypothesized that self-efficacy for seeking mental health care would be positively associated with higher rates of self-reported help-seeking behavior and higher rates of advising others in distress to access mental health treatment.

Methods: A randomized population sample of 977 South Africans completed the SE-SMHC as part of a larger study on barriers to health care for mental illness. SE-SMHC data were subjected to principal component analysis, and data from the larger study were utilized to test the hypotheses.

Results: Two latent factors emerged from the oblique rotation and accounted for 70% of the variance: SE-KNOW (confidence in one’s ability to know how to successfully interface with mental health care systems) and SE-COPE (confidence in one’s ability to cope with the consequences of seeking care). Cronbach alphas for both subscales were 0.87 and for the total scale score was 0.93. Both hypotheses were confirmed suggesting evidence of the scale’s validity.

Conclusions: This data suggests that the SE-SMHC demonstrates good psychometric characteristics and may be a useful research tool and screening instrument for targeted interventions.


Mental health, Help seeking, Self-efficacy