Mental health literacy in higher education students

Authors


Dr Nicola J. Reavley, Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, Centre for Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne, Locked Bag 10, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia. Email: nreavley@unimelb.edu.au

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.

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