Recognition of depression and psychosis by young Australians and their beliefs about treatment

Annemarie Wright, Meredith G Harris, John H Wiggers, Anthony F Jorm, Sue M Cotton, Susy M Harrigan, Rosalind E Hurworth, Patrick D McGorry
Medical Journal of Australia 2005 July 4, 183 (1): 18-23

OBJECTIVES: To assess young people's ability to recognise clinically defined depression and psychosis, the types of help they thought appropriate for these problems, their knowledge of appropriate treatments, and their perceptions regarding prognosis.

DESIGN: A cross-sectional telephone survey using structured interviews. Vignettes of a person with either depression or psychosis were presented, followed by questions related to recognition of the disorder, best forms of treatment and the prognosis.

PARTICIPANTS: A randomly selected sample of 1207 young people aged 12-25 years.

SETTING: Melbourne, Victoria, and surrounding regional and rural areas.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Responses to a mental health literacy questionnaire.

RESULTS: Almost half the respondents were able to identify depression correctly, whereas only a quarter identified psychosis correctly. Counsellors and family or friends were the most commonly cited forms of best help, with family or friends preferred by the younger age group for depression. General practitioners were considered more helpful for depression, and psychiatrists and psychologists more helpful for psychosis. Most respondents considered counselling and psychotherapy to be helpful. However, more than half the respondents expressed negative or equivocal views regarding the helpfulness of recommended pharmacological treatments.

CONCLUSIONS: The limitations we identified in youth mental health literacy may contribute to the low rates of treatment and the long duration of untreated illness reported in other studies. There is a need for initiatives to enhance mental health literacy among young people, and those close to them, if benefits of early treatment are to be realised.

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