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Overcoming Help-Seeking Barriers and Service Demands on Canadian University Campuses and the Role of Campus Support Services Open Access


Other title
Post-secondary mental health
Service demands
Barriers to help-seeking
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Dunn, Erica I
Supervisor and department
Everall, Robin (Educational Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Yohani, Sophie (Educational Psychology)
Causgrove Dunn, Janice (Physical Education and Recreation)
Leroy, Carol (Elementary Education)
Rinaldi, Christina (Educational Psychology)
Department of Educational Psychology
Counselling Psychology
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Across North America, the pervasiveness of psychological issues on university campuses is becoming increasingly concerning. As such, university counselling clinics and health centres are currently being taxed and staff and administrators are scrambling to keep up with the growing demands. While this is worrisome, it is somewhat overshadowed by the fact that most students (up to 90%) do not seek help for psychological concerns. Thus, while the majority of students are not getting the help that they need, universities are struggling to keep up with the relatively small number of students that are accessing services. Taken together, this suggests that the current structure of support services is not working. The purpose of the present study was to better understand why Canadian students are not seeking on campus support for psychological issues and further, to generate practical suggestions for how support services can be modified to overcome current help-seeking barriers and service demands on campus. The research questions included: a) What are the barriers identified by staff/administrators and students that prevent Canadian students from seeking help for psychological issues on university campuses?, b) What mechanisms are currently being used by universities to address the help-seeking barriers and service demands on their campuses?, and c) What policy and practice changes are still needed in order to address help-seeking barriers and service demands? A generic qualitative approach (interpretive description; Thorne, 2008) was employed as the methodological framework. A sample comprised of 23 staff and students from three Canadian institutions was recruited. Data was collected via semi-structured interviews and analyzed utilizing the framework offered by Thorne (2008). Various themes outlining barriers to help-seeking and mechanisms to overcome these barriers emerged from the data. Conceptually, the “barriers” were organized into individual, structural, and systemic themes, while the “mechanisms” were organized into structural and systemic themes. Overlap between these areas is discussed. The findings are discussed utilizing related research as a foundation. In addition, practice implications are thoroughly reviewed and future directions are outlined.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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