JOURNAL ARTICLE

Mental health literacy of depression: gender differences and attitudinal antecedents in a representative British sample

Viren Swami
PloS One 2012, 7 (11): e49779
23166769

BACKGROUND: Poor mental health literacy and negative attitudes toward individuals with mental health disorders may impede optimal help-seeking for symptoms of mental ill-health. The present study examined the ability to recognize cases of depression as a function of respondent and target gender, as well as individual psychological differences in attitudes toward persons with depression.

METHODS: In a representative British general population survey, the ability to correctly recognize vignettes of depression was assessed among 1,218 adults. Respondents also rated the vignettes along a number of attitudinal dimensions and completed measures of attitudes toward seeking psychological help, psychiatric skepticism, and anti-scientific attitudes.

RESULTS: There were significant differences in the ability to correctly identify cases of depression as a function of respondent and target gender. Respondents were more likely to indicate that a male vignette did not suffer from a mental health disorder compared to a female vignette, and women were more likely than men to indicate that the male vignette suffered from a mental health disorder. Attitudes toward persons with depression were associated with attitudes toward seeking psychological help, psychiatric skepticism, and anti-scientific attitudes.

CONCLUSION: Initiatives that consider the impact of gender stereotypes as well as individual differences may enhance mental health literacy, which in turn is associated with improved help-seeking behaviors for symptoms of mental ill-health.

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