24: Mental health literacy interventions in adults

Author: Anthony F. Jorm

This chapter gives an overview of interventions to improve mental health literacy aimed at adults. To be within the scope of this chapter, an intervention must aim to improve mental health literacy, as defined in Chapter 4. However, improving mental health literacy is not an end in itself. It is assumed that changing mental health literacy will lead to a change in behaviours that benefit mental health, which will, in turn, produce an improvement in mental health, as illustrated in Figure 24.1. For this reason, the chapter also looks at whether mental health literacy interventions change behaviour and mental health. Some of the interventions reviewed are aimed at outcomes additional to mental health literacy (for example, stigma), but where this is the case, only the outcomes related to mental health literacy are covered.

Although there are is a wide range of interventions aimed at improving mental health literacy in adults, many have not been evaluated. Rather than try to cover all of these, this chapter focuses on those interventions for which there is some quantitative evidence of effectiveness. The interventions have been classified as multi-component community campaigns, internet-based interventions or training courses for the public.

In the 1990s, the Global Burden of Disease study found that depression was a major source of disease burden globally and its impact was projected to increase. In response to this impact, the Australian national and state governments established ‘beyondblue: the national depression initiative’ in 2000 (www.beyondblue.org. au). beyondblue operates as an independent not-for-profit organisation, with funding support from government as well as from philanthropic sources.

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