Mental health literacy in rural Queensland: results of a community survey

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Bartlett, H, Travers, C, Cartwright, CM & Smith, N 2006, 'Mental health literacy in rural Queensland: results of a community survey', Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 40, no. 9, pp. 783-789.

The publisher's version of this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1614.2006.01884.x

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Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the awareness of, and attitudes to, mental health issues in rural dwelling Queensland residents. A secondary objective was to provide baseline data of mental health literacy prior to the implementation of Australian Integrated Mental Health Initiative – a health promotion strategy aimed at improving the health outcomes of people with chronic or recurring mental disorders. Method: In 2004 a random sample of 2% (2132) of the estimated adult population in each of eight towns in rural Queensland was sent a postal survey and invited to participate in the project. A series of questions were asked based on a vignette describing a person suffering major depression. In addition, questions assessed respondents’ awareness and perceptions of community mental health agencies. Results: Approximately one-third (36%) of those surveyed completed and returned the questionnaire. While a higher proportion of respondents (81%) correctly identified and labelled the problem in the vignette as depression than previously reported in Australian community surveys, the majority of respondents (66%) underestimated the prevalence of mental health problems in the community. Furthermore, a substantial number of respondents (37%) were unaware of agencies in their community to assist people with mental health issues while a majority of respondents (57.6%) considered that the services offered by those agencies were poor. Conclusion: While mental health literacy in rural Queensland appears to be comparable to other Australian regions, several gaps in knowledge were identified. This is in spite of recent widespread coverage of depression in the media and thus, there is a continuing need for mental health education in rural Queensland.

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