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Keywords:

  • depression;
  • help seeking;
  • mental health literacy;
  • stigma;
  • tertiary student

Abstract

Aim: With approximately 50% of young people aged 18–24 in tertiary education, these are potential settings for programmes to improve mental health literacy. A survey was carried out with students and staff of a tertiary education institution to investigate recognition of depression, help-seeking intentions, beliefs about interventions and stigmatizing attitudes.

Methods: Students of an Australian metropolitan university (with staff as a comparison group) participated in a telephone interview. They answered questions relating to mental health literacy.

Results: Of the completed interviews, 774 (65%) were students and 422 (35%) were staff. Over 70% of students and staff were able to recognize depression in a vignette, with greater likelihood of recognition in students associated with older age, female gender, being born in Australia and a higher level of education. Over 80% of respondents said they would seek help if they had a problem similar to that of the vignette. However, rates of specific help-seeking intentions for students were relatively low, with only 26% nominating a general practitioner and only 10% nominating a student counsellor. Factors associated with stigmatizing attitudes included male gender, younger age, lower level of education, being born outside Australia and lack of recognition of depression.

Conclusions: There is a need for mental health literacy interventions targeted at students, particularly those who are younger, male, born outside Australia and of a lower level of education. As rates of specific help-seeking intentions for students were relatively low, there is a need for further exploration of the barriers to help seeking from professional sources.