General News Stigma Reduction — 10 March 2014

A new survey has found that people are more willing to disclose having a mental health problem and receiving treatment.

The survey, led by Orygen Youth Health Research Centre in collaboration with the University of Melbourne in Australia, also found improved knowledge and beliefs about mental health problems within the community.

Researchers said they believe this is due, in part, to educational campaigns about mental health.

“This greater awareness and changing attitudes towards mental health problems mostly likely fuels the increase in the willingness to discuss mental health problems,” according to lead researcher Dr. Nicola Reavley from the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health.bigstock_Helping_Hand_1388168

Results from the researchers’ national survey of mental health literacy — what people know and believe about mental health problems like depression and schizophrenia — was compared to the results of similar surveys carried out in 1995, according to Reavley.

“The results of the study revealed that the numbers of those disclosing experiences of depression and early schizophrenia, and of having received professional help for depression, have increased since 1995,” she said.

“We know that people are better at recognizing the symptoms of depression than they used to be. It is also possible that there is less stigma around disclosure, although we still have a lot of work to do in that area.”

In 1995, 45 percent of those surveyed said they knew someone like the person given in the case description, while in 2011, 71 percent said this, she noted.

The study also showed that between the survey periods of 2003, 2004, and 2011, women were more likely than men to disclose experiencing depression, while those born overseas were more likely than those born in Australia to disclose experiencing depression with suicidal thoughts.

Researchers hope their findings can contribute to the design of public education and anti-stigma interventions.

“Such policies could help those who need it to seek early treatment,” the researchers said. “Such educational campaigns could improve the recognition of the signs and symptoms of mental disorders, as well as increase the public’s knowledge of appropriate treatment. At the same time, a campaign could, hopefully, minimize stigma as a barrier to seeking professional help.”

“This new information helps us to understand how things can change in the population and the impact of campaigns to reduce the stigma of mental health problems,” Reavley said.

This article first appeared on Psych Central on 9 March, 2014.


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