'Mental health literacy': A survey of the public's ability to recognise mental disorders and their beliefs about the effectiveness of treatment

NHMRC Social Psychiatry Research Unit, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.
The Medical journal of Australia (Impact Factor: 3.79). 03/1997; 166(4):182-6.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT To assess the public's recognition of mental disorders and their beliefs about the effectiveness of various treatments ("mental health literacy").
A cross-sectional survey, in 1995, with structured interviews using vignettes of a person with either depression or schizophrenia.
A representative national sample of 2031 individuals aged 18-74 years; 1010 participants were questioned about the depression vignette and 1021 about the schizophrenia vignette.
Most of the participants recognised the presence of some sort of mental disorder: 72% for the depression vignette (correctly labelled as depression by 39%) and 84% for the schizophrenia vignette (correctly labelled by 27%). When various people were rated as likely to be helpful or harmful for the person described in the vignette for depression, general practitioners (83%) and counsellors (74%) were most often rated as helpful, with psychiatrists (51%) and psychologists (49%) less so. Corresponding data for the schizophrenia vignette were: counsellors (81%), GPs (74%), psychiatrists (71%) and psychologists (62%). Many standard psychiatric treatments (antidepressants, antipsychotics, electroconvulsive therapy, admission to a psychiatric ward) were more often rated as harmful than helpful, and some nonstandard treatments were rated highly (increased physical or social activity, relaxation and stress management, reading about people with similar problems). Vitamins and special diets were more often rated as helpful than were antidepressants and antipsychotics.
If mental disorders are to be recognised early in the community and appropriate intervention sought, the level of mental health literacy needs to be raised. Further, public understanding of psychiatric treatments can be considerably improved.

  • Source
    • "Mental health literacy is defined as " knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management, or prevention " (Jorm et al., 1997, p. 182), and includes knowledge and attitudes about appropriate sources of help (Jorm, 2000). Mental health literacy in the general population could lead to more positive and supportive interactions with individuals with mental disorders, which is important as the probability of close contact with an individual with a mental disorder is very high (Jorm, Morgan, & Wright, 2008). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This study assessed mental health literacy in Irish adolescents (N = 187), and explored participants’ help-giving responses toward hypothetical depressed peers. Participants read five vignettes, each describing an adolescent experiencing a life difficulty; two of the characters met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., DSM-IV) criteria for depression. The majority of participants could not identify depression or potential suicidality, but felt concerned for the depressed characters’ wellbeing. Most participants stated they would provide help if they were the depressed characters’ friends. Correct identification of depression did not influence the type of help offered. A significant proportion of participants did not mention engaging an adult’s assistance, and assessing for suicidality was not mentioned by any participant. Gender differences were found in mental health literacy and the type of responses offered. Education that emphasizes the importance of informing an adult and assessing for suicidal risk is recommended.
    Journal of Adolescent Research 06/2015; 30(4). DOI:10.1177/0743558415569731 · 0.87 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "In 1997, the authors published an analysis concerning the items of the knowledge about the professionals and treatments available component (Jorm, Korten, Rodgers et al., 1997), using a sample of 2031 Australians aged between 18 and 74 years. The factor analysis showed a 3-factor structure, which the authors designated as Medical (including items related to prescribed medication), Psychological (items related to professional help and therapies) and Lifestyle (items related to non-professional help, e.g. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Abstract: Background: The assessment of mental health literacy is a key aspect in the design and implementation of mental health education and awareness programmes, specifically in school settings, given the high prevalence of mental disorders in adolescents and young people and the need for interventions adjusted to specific settings and target groups. Objective: To describe the assessment of the psychometric properties of the Questionnaire for Assessment of Mental Health Literacy (QuALiSMental). Methodology: Administration of the questionnaire to a random and representative sample of 4938 Portuguese adolescents and young people attending schools in the area of coverage of the Regional Directorate of Education - Centre. Results: The QuALiSMental has acceptable levels of reliability and a factor structure which is consistent with the theoretical components of mental health literacy. Conclusion: The questionnaire may be applied both as a screening measure of literacy and as a measure for assessing the impact of interventions on the promotion of mental health among adolescents and young people.
    Revista de Enfermagem Referência 03/2015; DOI:10.12707/RIV14031 · 0.10 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "One suggested strategy to improve levels of helpseeking for mental health problems is to increase population levels of mental health literacy (Gulliver et al. 2010; Jorm 2012). Mental health literacy has been defined by Jorm et al. (1997) as 'knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management or prevention'. This definition has been widely accepted, as reflected in the growing body of peer-reviewed literature operationalising Jorm's definition by using fictional vignettes to determine ability to correctly identify certain mental disorders. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Objectives Mental health literacy is increasingly referenced as a goal of mental health policy. However, the current definition of this concept has a relatively narrow focus on mental disorders. The objectives of this study were to explore mental health literacy through the use of vignettes and to begin to articulate a broader definition. Methods Six groups of young people (n=42) aged between 16 and 25 years old responded to open-ended questions about vignettes depicting fictional characters with diagnosable mental health problems. The responses were analysed using Foucault’s governmentality theory. Results The responses to the vignettes highlighted a range of determinants of our mental health. The young people suggested informal mental health-promoting techniques and highlighted the importance of talking. Ambiguity was reported in relation to the types of knowledge that are important in responding to mental health need. Finally, the responses were reflective of young people who are empathetic and view mental health from the perspective of our shared humanity, rather than as a marginal issue. Conclusions As mental health literacy is increasingly becoming a goal of mental health policy, it is timely that a shared understanding of this important concept is articulated. The current definition of mental health literacy is narrow in its focus on the recognition of mental disorders. A more broad-based definition of mental health literacy should be adopted by policy makers, reflecting the full range of determinants of mental health and recognising the importance of mental wellbeing.
    Irish journal of psychological medicine 01/2015; 32(01):129-136. DOI:10.1017/ipm.2014.82
Show more