Websites as a mode of delivering mental health information: perceptions from the Australian public

Liana S Leach, Helen Christensen, Kathy M Griffiths, Anthony F Jorm, Andrew J Mackinnon
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 2007, 42 (2): 167-72

BACKGROUND: Many people with a mental disorder do not access help from mental health services. Internet websites may be a useful tool for disseminating mental health information to those who remain untreated, however little is known about people's perceptions of websites as mental health information sources. The current study examined characteristics that may influence belief in the helpfulness of websites as modes of delivering information about mental health. The study compared belief in the helpfulness websites to two traditional sources (bibliotherapy and health educators).

METHODS: A total of 3,998 Australians aged 18 and above were surveyed. Logistic regression was used to explore the factors associated with rating a website, book and health educator as helpful sources of mental health information for a person described as having either depression, depression with suicidal thoughts, early schizophrenia or chronic schizophrenia. Factors investigated were demographics, exposure to mental illness, beliefs about dealing with mental illness alone, and personal and perceived stigmatising attitudes.

RESULTS: Considerably more participants rated bibliotherapy and health educators as helpful in comparison to websites. Predictors of rating a website and book as helpful were identical; younger age, belief that it is helpful to deal with mental illness alone and being presented with depression and early schizophrenia vignettes in comparison to chronic schizophrenia. Predictors of rating a health educator as helpful were younger age, less personal stigma and being presented with a depression (without suicidal thoughts) vignette in comparison to chronic schizophrenia.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest the need for multiple modes of delivering mental health information. While many people feel that information delivered face-to-face is likely to be helpful, websites and other tools that maintain anonymity may be preferred by those who choose to or find themselves dealing with mental illness alone.


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