Aim: We examined the eating disorders ‘mental health literacy’ of young adult women in Singapore.
Methods: A self-report questionnaire was completed by 255 women recruited from three university campuses. A vignette of a fictional (female) person exhibiting the characteristic features of bulimia nervosa was presented, followed by a series of questions concerning the treatment and outcome of the problem described. A measure of eating disorder symptoms was included in the questionnaire.
Results: Consulting a primary care practitioner, counsellor or psychologist; seeking the advice of a (female) family member or friend; getting advice about diet and nutrition; and taking vitamins and minerals were the interventions most often considered helpful. Participants were less positive about the benefits of psychiatristsand were ambivalent about the use of psychotropic medication. Participants' mothers were most often considered helpful as they are an initial source of help. Among participants with a high level of eating disorder symptoms, recognition of an eating problem was poor. A minority of participants believed that treatment would result in full recovery.
Conclusions: Aspects of the eating disorders mental health literacy of young Singaporean women may be conducive to low or inappropriate treatment seeking. Health promotion programmes need to target not only at-risk individuals, but also their family members and social circle.