182957 Mental health literacy among adolescents in a small town in Virginia: An exploratory study

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dudley P. Olsson, MPH candidate , Department of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
May G. Kennedy, PhD, MPH , Department of Social & Behavioral Health, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Background: At least one in five children and adolescents in the U.S. exhibits the signs and symptoms of a DSMV-IV disorder during the course of a year, with 11 percent experiencing significant functional impairment. Yet we know relatively little about the mental health literacy of young people what do they know and believe about mental disorders, and who do they consider the best source of help for such problems?

Methods: In December 2007, we conducted an anonymous, voluntary survey to assess mental health literacy among students enrolled in P.E./health classes at West Point Public Schools in West Point, Virginia. West Point is a small, high-performing school district in a rural county. Two hundred eighty one students participated in the survey, representing an 87% response rate. Students were provided brief, written scenarios and asked to distinguish symptoms of clinical anxiety and depression in someone their age from normal reactions to stressful life events. They were also asked who they thought could provide the best help for such problems and what local mental health resources were available.

Results: Preliminary findings revealed that 73% of students could not recognize anxiety disorder and 58% could not recognize depression as a mental health problem or illness. Associations between recognizing the disorders and sharing concerns about a peer who was experiencing mental health problems with a school counselor or another adult were explored.

Discussion: These findings show substantial room for improvement in adolescent mental health literacy and raise methodological and substantive issues for future research.

Learning Objectives:
1. Define mental health literacy. 2. Describe a pilot procedure for assessing the mental health literacy of adolescent populations. 3. Estimate the prevalence of mental health literacy among adolescents in a small, rural town.

Keywords: Adolescent Health, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I collected and analyzed the data to be presented.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.