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Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2011 Nov;45(11):947-56. doi: 10.3109/00048674.2011.621060. Epub 2011 Oct 13.

Recognition of mental disorders and beliefs about treatment and outcome: findings from an Australian national survey of mental health literacy and stigma.

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Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.



The aim of the study was to carry out a national survey in order to assess recognition and beliefs about treatment for affective disorders, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia/psychosis.


In 2011, telephone interviews were carried out with 6019 Australians aged 15 or over. Participants were presented with a case vignette describing either depression, depression with suicidal thoughts, early schizophrenia, chronic schizophrenia, social phobia or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Questions were asked about what was wrong with the person, the likely helpfulness of a broad range of interventions and the likely outcomes for the person with and without appropriate treatment.


Rates of recognition of depression were relatively high, with almost 75% of respondents using the correct label. Rates of recognition for the schizophrenia vignettes and PTSD were similar, with around one third of respondents using the correct labels. Only 9.2% of respondents were able to correctly label social phobia. Respondents gave the highest helpfulness ratings to GPs, counsellors, antidepressants, antipsychotics (for schizophrenia) and lifestyle interventions such as physical activity, relaxation and getting out more. Respondents were generally optimistic about recovery following treatment, although relapse was seen as likely.


While Australians' beliefs about effective medications and interventions for mental disorders have moved closer to those of health professionals since surveys conducted in 1995 and 2003/4, there is still potential for mental health literacy gains in the areas of recognition and treatment beliefs for mental disorders. This is particularly the case for schizophrenia and anxiety disorders, which are less well recognized and, in the case of social phobia, generally perceived as having less need for professional help.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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