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Keywords:

  • adolescents;
  • mental health literacy;
  • psychosis;
  • schizophrenia;
  • youth

Abstract

Aim

Mental health literacy about psychotic disorders, specifically schizophrenia, may assist in appropriate help seeking and early intervention, preventing the exacerbation of symptoms and improving health outcomes in the medium and long term. The aim of this study was to characterize the level of mental health literacy of Portuguese youth concerning schizophrenia.

Methods

A mental health literacy questionnaire was administered to a random sample of Portuguese youth aged 14–24 years. This questionnaire evaluated the following components: recognition of disorders, knowledge about professionals and treatments available, knowledge about the effectiveness of self-help strategies, knowledge and skills to support and provide first aid to others, and knowledge of how to prevent mental disorders.

Results

There were 4938 adolescents and young adults who participated in the study. Schizophrenia or psychosis was recognized by 42.17% and 22.21%, respectively. Most young people recognized the potential helpfulness of family doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health services. There was also widespread belief in the potential helpfulness of family and friends, and lifestyle changes. However, teachers were not generally seen as a source of help. Appropriate mental health first-aid strategies were commonly endorsed, but there was a reluctance to ask about suicidal feelings and many endorsed speaking to the person firmly. Lifestyle factors were also commonly believed to be preventative.

Conclusions

Although many Portuguese youth have beliefs that may assist early intervention, there was a substantial minority who did not. Given the central role of teachers in the lives of young people, it is notable that they were not seen as a potential source of help. Mental health first-aid skills of young people also need improvement.