What is it about?

Mental disorders are common and can be costly, often requiring professional intervention. However, people hesitate to seek help due to factors such as lack of knowledge, stigma, and uncertainty about effectiveness of treatment. Therefore, it is crucial to understand these barriers and promote attitudes that encourage seeking help to address mental health challenges. This study investigates the relationship between “Mental Health Literacy” (MHL) and help-seeking attitudes. MHL is defined as understanding mental disorders and their treatments, knowledge of how to maintain positive mental health, reducing stigma associated with mental disorders, and enhancing help-seeking efficacy. Unlike individual studies, we applied a meta-analytic structural equation modeling approach, which aggregates and analyzes data from multiple studies (in this case, 111 studies) to draw more comprehensive and generalized conclusions about how MHL components influence the process of help-seeking. Our findings suggest that reducing mental illness stigma and increasing help-seeking efficacy may be effective strategies in promoting positive help-seeking attitudes among individuals who can recognize mental disorders. In other words, efforts to diminish the shame surrounding mental health issues and empower individuals to feel more capable in seeking help could encourage them to reach out for support when they realize they are experiencing mental health problems. It is noteworthy that knowing how to maintain good mental health alone may not strongly influence the decision to seek professional help, possibly because individuals in good mental health may underestimate their need for assistance. When individuals are skilled at managing mental health independently, seeking professional help may not be a top priority.

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Why is it important?

This research highlights the significance of promoting positive attitudes toward help-seeking for mental health issues. To achieve this, it suggests addressing stigma and empowering individuals to feel more capable of seeking support. By combining insights from multiple studies, we gain a fuller understanding of how MHL components are interconnected, informing more effective strategies for encouraging help-seeking behavior.


In simple terms, it's about making it okay to talk about mental health and making sure people know how and where to get help when they need it.

Ling Chen
National Taiwan University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The power of knowledge: How mental health literacy can overcome barriers to seeking help., American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, November 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/ort0000708.
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