The Alberta Mental Health Literacy Study

Study Background

The high prevalence of major depression has significant public health implications given its impacts on the individuals’ functioning and quality of life and its economic burden on society. Comprehensive strategies including primary and secondary prevention and effective self-management are needed. However, these efforts are impeded by:
1) lack of sufficient knowledge about depression
2) negative attitudes towards evidence-based interventions, and
3) stigma

Insufficient knowledge about depression and inaccurate attitudes towards psychiatric care can lead to delays in help-seeking, hinder acceptance of evidence – based mental health care and undermine appropriate support for the depressed persons from others in the community.

In order to develop effective mental health education and promotion programs to increase public awareness of mental health issues and to alleviate the burden of depression in Alberta , basic information on the extent of depression literacy in the community is needed. Baseline information on depression literacy will provide benchmarks for evaluating interventions, allow identification of sub-populations with low levels of depression literacy for targeting intervention messages, permit examination of the relationship between depression literacy and stigma and assist in understanding alternative management approaches which are effective from the public’s perspective.

What is mental health literacy?
The term “mental health literacy” was first introduced by researchers at the Centre for Mental Health Research in Canberra, Australia . It is defined as “knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management or prevention.” (Jorm, 2000). Mental health literacy consists of several components, including: (a) the ability to recognize specific disorders; (b) knowledge and beliefs about risk factors and causes; (c) knowledge and beliefs about professional help and self-help interventions; (e) attitudes which facilitate recognition and appropriate help-seeking; (f) knowledge of how to seek mental health information.

Jorm AF. Mental health literacy. Public knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders. Br J Psychiatry. 2000 Nov;177:396-401

 Objectives: The objectives of this study were to (1) estimate the percentage of Alberta adults who can correctly recognize depression, (2) describe people’s attitudes towards pharmacological treatment for depression, and (3) examine rural – urban differences in depression literacy.

Methods: Between February and June 2006, we randomly selected and interviewed 3,047 individuals aged 18 and 74 years old, who were residing in Alberta . We used the Australian questionnaire for depression literacy so that comparisons can be made.

Funding Source:  Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research 

Status: Completed

Results: Forthcoming

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