Inability to recognise and correctly label symptoms of mental health disorders results in incorrect beliefs about their course and outcomes and, as a result, in failure to seek treatment. MHL is an important factor in public mental health; however, our understanding of MHL’s correlates and predictors is still limited.
Two studies of MHL will be reported in this presentation.
Study 1 presents a cross-cultural comparison of MHL in university students from USA, Russia, and Malta. A set of 7 vignettes, depicting common mental health conditions (Social Anxiety Disorder, GAD, Panic Disorder, OCD, PTSD, Depression, Schizophrenia) was used to assess MHL. For each of the vignettes, participants were asked the following question: “What, if any, is the most likely diagnosis in this case?”.
Participant responses were independently coded by two raters. MHL levels varied across disorders, with high recognition of depression and schizophrenia, but poor recognition of GAD and Panic Disorder across the subsamples.
In Study 2, MHL was assessed in a sample of adults in Malta. Big Five personality traits and empathy were considered as possible psychological predictors of MHL. Data collection was conducted via a local online panel; 400 respondents were recruited (mean age = 30.68, SD = 7.8; age range = 18 – 45; 61.3% female).
MHL was assessed with a set of 7 vignettes depicting common mental health conditions accompanied by an open-ended question asking participants to identify the problem described in the vignette. Big Five Inventory-10 and Toronto Empathy Questionnaire were used to assess empathy and personality traits.
MHL was relatively low, particularly, in relation to anxiety disorders. Empathy and agreeableness contributed to the overall level of MHL.
Anxiety disorders continue to be largely unrecognised or mislabelled by general public. Further research is necessary to establish predictors of MHL and to design effective interventions aimed at improving MHL in the general public.