4.2 MENTAL HEALTH LITERACY

MENTAL HEALTH

Key Messages

Mental health literacy in Lambton County is generally higher than the Ontario average.

Most residents feel confident knowing where to find information on mental health.

Younger people tend to have mixed feelings about seeking help, and many have wanted to ask for help but didn’t know where to turn.

“This community has a lot of supports – it’s just that most people are unaware of them until they need them the most.”

– Youth mental health care worker

Mental Health Literacy

Mental health literacy is a term that includes knowledge and beliefs about mental health and mental illness  (Jorm, 2011). People with a high level of mental health literacy understand how to recognize risk factors and symptoms of mental illness. They have attitudes that enable help-seeking behaviour and they know where to find appropriate treatment services. Although we didn’t measure knowledge of specific mental illnesses, we did measure respondents’ comfort with seeking out mental health information, and their attitudes toward recognizing and seeking help for mental illness.

Knowing How to Seek Mental Health Information

The majority of Lambton residents agree that they are confident they know where to find information about mental health or mental illness and are confident using the internet to do so. Slightly fewer agree that access is convenient and accessible.  There is room for improvement in all of these areas, as only a third or fewer residents strongly agreed with these statements. Those who are moderate and languishing are significantly less likely to report that they are confident in their knowledge of resources and that information is convenient and/or accessible. Lambton residents were significantly more likely than Ontario residents to be confident in their ability to seek mental health information and to feel that places to get information or support are convenient and/or accessible.

PERCENTAGE WHO STRONGLY AGREE OR AGREE

I am confident that I know where to seek information about mental health or mental illness

LAMBTON 0
Ontario 0

I am confident using the internet to search for information about mental health or mental illness

Lambton 0
Ontario 0

The places to get information or support regarding mental health or mental illness are convenient and/or accessible for me

Lambton 0
Ontario 0

* Lambton significantly higher than Ontario for all statements
* Ontario data source: Ipsos OMNI Online survey, 2017

Attitudes That Promote Recognition and Appropriate Help-Seeking

Most residents say that when it comes to taking care of their own mental health they would talk to others and would seek help from a mental health professional. However, one in 10 residents believes that seeking help from a mental health professional shows weakness, i.e., not being strong enough to manage your own difficulties.  Those who are languishing are significantly less likely to seek help for themselves than those who are moderate or flourishing.

PERCENTAGE WHO STRONGLY AGREE OR AGREE

If I had a mental illness, I would seek help from a mental health professional

Lambton 0
Ontario 0

If I had a mental illness, I would tell someone

Lambton 0
Ontario 0

Seeing a mental health professional is not a sign of personal weakness

Lambton 0
Ontario 0

* Lambton significantly higher than Ontario for all except last statement
* Ontario data source: Ipsos OMNI Online survey, 2017

What Do Our Students Say About Seeking Help?

In 2014, a survey of students (Grades 7-12) in Lambton/Chatham-Kent revealed that 58% of females and 35% of males wanted to talk to someone about mental health in the past 12 months, but didn’t know where to turn. When asked about the reasons why people may not reach out for support when they need it, the top barriers identified were shame or embarrassment (77%), fear (75%), discomfort (72%) or because they didn’t think asking for help would make a difference (70%).

58
FEMALES
35
MALES
WANTED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS, BUT DIDN’T KNOW WHERE TO TURN

“I feel like I need to handle my own problems and I don’t like telling others my problems because I don’t want people to see how vulnerable I am. I have emotional issues and don’t like to be stripped bare. I feel like most of my problems are involving just me and I don’t see how anyone at my school can help me with that.”

– Female student, grade 12

“[I would] help [my friend] and be there for her because it has happened to me before so I would help her stop and not bring adults into it because they go over the top. The last thing that a kid wants is to go to a hospital or to a counselor.”

– Female student, grade 7

Importantly, however, the most frequent reason for not seeking help appeared to be related to feelings of independence and self-sufficiency – many students, particularly males, said they could get through their problems “on their own,” and that they didn’t need any outside help from others:

“I want to be independent and by solving problems myself I know that I will be prepared for times when there isn’t anyone to help me. I don’t like giving other people my problems. I will keep my problems and deal with them myself.”

– Male student, grade 11

Next Section

THE STIGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESS