The Impact of Mental Health Literacy on Help- Seeking Intentions: Results of a Pilot Study with First Year Psychology Students

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Coral L Smith Ian M Shochet QueenslandUniversityofTechnology,Australia

The Impact of Mental Health Literacy on HelpSeeking Intentions: Results of a Pilot Study with First Year Psychology Students

Key words: mental health literacy; help-seeking; young adults

Introduction
The mental health of young adults is an area of public health concern. It is important for those with mental health issues to receive the appropriate support and treatment, and their own help-seeking behaviours are central to this outcome (Rickwood etal, 2005). However, help-seeking rates amongst young adults are less than optimal (Biddle etal, 2007). A factor that may facilitate help-seeking and that has been discussed in the literature is mental health literacy. This pilot study explores the relation between mental health literacy and

help-seeking intentions, using an online questionnaire with a convenience sample of 150 university students enrolled in a first-year psychology unit. Amongst Australians aged 15 to 24 years, mental disorders have been named the major burden of disease (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2007), and a recent study has indicated that the prevalence of mental illness is higher amongst university students than the general population (Stallman, 2010). Unfortunately, epidemiological data suggests low rates of help-seeking in young people (Biddle etal, 2007). In fact, help-seeking is least likely to occur in those aged between 16 and 24 years (Andrews etal, 2001). Given that mental disorders are disabling yet treatable (Biddle et al, 2007) and that professional help-seeking is widely

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Although mental health literacy has been proposed as a factor that may facilitate help-seeking, few studies have examined this relation. This pilot study was designed to investigate the relation between mental health literacy and help-seeking intentions, and to explore which components of mental health literacy might be best able to predict helpseeking intentions. An online questionnaire was completed by a convenience sample of 150 university students enrolled

in a psychology unit, aged between 17 and 26 years. A simultaneous multiple regression indicated that higher levels of mental health literacy could predict greater intentions to seek help from professional sources. A number of mental health literacy components made a unique and significant contribution to the prediction of help-seeking intentions. The findings of this pilot study indicate that the role of mental health literacy in facilitating help-seeking is a promising area of research.

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International Journal of Mental Health Promotion

VOLUME 13 ISSUE 2 - MAY 2011 © The Clifford Beers Foundation

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regarded as protective against a number of mental health risks (Rickwood etal, 2005), these low rates of help-seeking are worrying. Several factors that may facilitate help-seeking have been discussed in the literature. Mental health literacy has been proposed as one such factor (Rickwood etal, 2005) and is the focus of this study. Mental health literacy includes both knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which assist in their recognition, management or prevention (Jorm etal, 1997). It is conceptualised as a continuum ranging from lay beliefs to professional knowledge (Jorm, 2000). One theory of help-seeking proposes four stages to the help-seeking process (Rickwood etal, 2005). Barriers to further progression may be identified at each stage, and many of these barriers can be thought of as ‘mental health literacy deficits’. Rickwood etal (2005) suggests that helpseeking begins with awareness and appraisal that one has a problem. Lack of knowledge about the symptoms of mental illness may create a barrier at this stage, in addition to negative beliefs about those who experience mental illness. Following problem recognition, an individual...
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