Increasing Mental Health Literacy

Jorm, A. F. (2012). Mental health literacy: Empowering the community to take action for better mental health. 67(3), 231-243.

Public education campaigns focusing on physical conditions, such as HIV, obesity, and stroke, are widespread. Yet similar efforts are lacking when it comes to knowledge about mental illness. According to Jorm (2012), survey data from several countries show insufficient knowledge about recognizing, preventing, and treating mental health problems, including “knowledge of effective self-help strategies for milder problems and…first aid skills to support others who are developing a mental disorder or are in a mental health crisis” (p. 231). This lack of mental health literacy becomes increasingly critical in light of evidence that delaying treatment leads to less favorable outcomes for mental health problems. Jorm described several educational interventions for which there is evidence of effectiveness. These include (1) school-based interventions, such as programs targeting substance abuse, depression, and suicide in high school students, (2) mental health first aid training programs, which have been adapted for use in a variety of countries and communities, (3) Internet-based interventions, and (4) whole-of-community campaigns, such as the Australian government sponsored “beyondblue” initiative. This latter program involved such activities as print and Internet publications, prominent speakers, and the sponsorship of community events. The author suggested that in addition to improved mental health, an indirect effect of greater mental health literacy may be increased support for public funding of mental health services.

Making Connections

Mental health

Media Supplement

This NPR podcast , describes a mental health first aid program. [4 min 47 sec]