“It’s not that big of a problem...so we’re not going to do anything.” An inclusive grounded theory study exploring the help-seeking behaviours of adolescents in school for their emotional well-being.

  • Kelly Osborne

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Educational Psychology (DEdPsy)


This inclusive study aimed to explore what helps and hinders adolescent help-seeking in school for their emotional well-being. With the increasing prevalence of mental health conditions in children and young people in the UK (Green et al, 2004; Children’s Society, 2008) and with young people spending a significant amount of their time in educational settings (King, Strunk and Sorter, 2010; Anderson and Graham, 2016; Rutter et al, 1979; Dryfoos, 1994), this research aimed to identify what could promote adolescents seeking help from adults in school.

In order to gain the views of the young people, an inclusive research approach was adopted for this study using a grounded theory methodology. Pupil researchers were trained to lead focus groups within three participating schools and provide feedback on the data analysis. Supplementary data was collected through interviews with the school SENCOs and relevant school policies. A thematic analysis of this data took place to identify the gaps between the differing perspectives.

The findings suggest that young people go through a complex and internal decision-making process regarding whether to seek help from adults in school for problems which cause them emotional distress. The key overarching theoretical categories included: positive relationships, ‘the inbetweeners’, containing overwhelming feelings and protecting image. The findings also identify a need for schools to explicitly teach young people the skills they require to seek help effectively; which aims to lead to the development of healthy help-seeking behaviours and may promote future help-seeking.

Comparing the views of the young people with the supplementary data drew out the key differences between what is important to them, when seeking help, and what support the schools are currently providing. These findings therefore highlight the importance of gaining the views of young people and involving them in research. Implications for schools and Educational Psychologists are also identified in terms of listening and responding to the young people’s views as being central to promoting help-seeking.
Date of Award28 Nov 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorBeth Tarleton (Supervisor) & Rob Green (Supervisor)

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