Mental health literacy”: a survey of the public’s ability to recognise mental disorders and their beliefs about the effectiveness of treatment. Med J Aust

NHMRC Social Psychiatry Research Unit, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.
The Medical journal of Australia (Impact Factor: 4.09). 03/1997; 166(4):182-6.
Source: PubMed


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.

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    • "Mental health literacy (MHL) is defined as ''knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management or prevention'' (Jorm et al., 1997, p. 182). It comprises awareness of how to access mental health information ; the ability to recognise disorders; attitudes which aid recognition and appropriate help seeking; knowledge and beliefs about risk factors and causes of mental disorders; and awareness of the range of treatments available. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: There is an unclear relationship between mental health literacy (MHL) and psychiatric stigma. MHL is associated with both positive and negative attitudes to mental illness. To our knowledge, no published peer reviewed study has examined this relationship in the Republic of Ireland. Aims: This study was conducted to assess MHL regarding schizophrenia and the degree of psychiatric stigma displayed by the general public in the Republic of Ireland. Method: A face-to-face in-home omnibus survey was conducted with a representative sample of residents of the Republic of Ireland. Participants (N = 1001) were presented with a vignette depicting schizophrenia and were asked questions to determine their ability to recognise the condition and to ascertain their attitudes towards schizophrenia and mental illness. Results: Among the participants, 34.1% correctly identified schizophrenia. Higher age, higher socioeconomic status, and an urban geographic location predicted identification. Those who did not correctly identify schizophrenia were significantly more optimistic about recovery and perceived people with schizophrenia as less dangerous. However, only the relationship with perceived dangerousness was considered robust. Conclusions: Participants with higher MHL displayed more negative attitudes to mental illness. Findings have implications internationally for MHL and anti-stigma campaigns.
    Journal of Mental Health 10/2015; DOI:10.3109/09638237.2015.1057327 · 1.01 Impact Factor
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    • "In fact, the public frequently views medication, hospitalisation and psychiatric treatment as harmful! (Goldney, Fisher, & Wilson, 2001; Jorm, Korten, Jacomb, Christensen, et al., 1997). Various factors and methods have been shown to increase mental health literacy. "

    • "By proposing the concept of mental health literacy, we aimed to draw attention to a neglected area for research and action. In 1995, we carried out the first Australian National Survey of Mental Health Literacy (Jorm, Korten, Jacomb, Christensen, et al., 1997) and did associated surveys of general practitioners, psychiatrists and clinical psychologists (Jorm, Korten, Jacomb, Rodgers, et al., 1997). We found many large gaps between public and professional beliefs about mental disorders, particularly in beliefs about the potential helpfulness of standard psychiatric treatments. "
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    ABSTRACT: In this issue, Mackert and colleagues argue for the benefits of a general health literacy focus, which can be applied across health domains. Using the concept of mental health literacy as an example, this article argues that there are also major advantages of a domain-specific approach. The concept of mental health literacy has had policy impacts and led to the development of interventions, which might not have otherwise occurred. It has also led to the development of assessments specifically targeted at intervention goals. It is concluded that while a general concept of health literacy might be appropriate for some purposes, it does not meet the specific needs of the mental health area.
    Health Communication 09/2015; 30(12):1166-8. DOI:10.1080/10410236.2015.1037423 · 0.97 Impact Factor
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