This concept is a product of the development of health literacy. Health literacy is something that helps with longevity and quality of life. As a branch of medicine, psychiatry also needed to have specific information about its conditions, in order to lower suicides and other injuries, and overall, provide a better quality of life for people with mental health conditions.
Mental health literacy means:
“More recently, informed by previous definitions of MHL and current definitions of HL, MHL has been defined as: understanding how to obtain and maintain positive mental health; understanding mental disorders and their treatments; decreasing stigma related to mental disorders; and, enhancing help-seeking efficacy (knowing when and where to seek help and developing competencies designed to improve one’s mental health care and self-management capabilities).”
Source: Jorm, A.F.; Korten, A.E.; Jacomb, P.A.; Christensen, H.; Rodgers, B.; Pollitt, P. (1997). ““Mental health literacy”: a survey of the public’s ability to recognize mental disorders and their beliefs about the effectiveness of treatment”. Medical Journal of Australia. 166: 182–186.
“More recently, understanding of HL has evolved into a broader construct that is considered fundamental to improving a person’s health outcome, decreasing health inequities in populations, and enhancing the operation of health systems and the development of health policy. Thus it is now recognized as necessary to improve health outcomes at both the individual and population levels.”
As you can see, it’s something that is very important and that concerns everyone, especially those of us with mental health conditions but not only us. People with no mental health problems should be aware of mental illness, in a natural and informed way.
Mental health literacy is composed of knowledge, recognition, and attitudes.
Knowledge is the largest part of mental health literacy. It is divided into 4 subtypes:
-Where and how to get information: the networks and support systems people use to obtain information about mental health conditions. Friends, family, educators, entertainment or social media, among others;
-Causes of mental health conditions;
-Professional help: knowing how to get professional help and what type of help is available.
-Self-help: what one can do to get better without professional help, using self-help books and media, for example. It’s not advisable sometimes because of the severity of the conditions and its symptoms.
Recognition refers to the recognition of symptoms or conditions. Specific illness recognition refers to the ability to notice that someone has a mental health condition and which one. Symptom recognition is to determine by the behaviors, beliefs, and other manifestations of mental conditions, that someone has a condition; without knowing in specific which one.
Some efforts have been made on promoting knowledge but other researchers argue that changing attitudes by reducing stigma is a more effective way of creating real change in mental health discourse. Ultimately, both contribute to ending the stigma.
Attitudes are researched in two subtypes:
-Attitudes about mental health conditions and people that suffer from them;
-Attitudes about seeking professional health.
Attitudes are various and are often difficult to analyze or target with intervention.
There have been made surveys about mental health literacy, in several countries, and the results are not the best. People are very uninformed about it, mistrust medications and psychiatrists. They even state that only people with weak character have mental health conditions. This is what we face and why we have to keep quiet about mental illness most of the time.
Ways to improve this
-Individual training programs;
-Sites and books aimed at the general public.
I wish I had the courage to share my blog with family, friends, and acquaintances but I fear being judged. There’s a possibility that I have said this before but I feel like I can only do it once I have success in life. When I have things to show for and achievements. The label of the aimless, mentally ill woman is not what I want. My blog will continue to talk about mental health, BPD and stigma. That’s my contribution to the word, right now. Though I would like to do more. Maybe do public speaking when I’m recovered. Do a Ted Talk. Haha. Something that pushes things forward, into the 21st century.
Let’s continue to write on our blogs about our lives with mental health conditions, our struggles, our victories. People will eventually see that we are not to be feared or mocked; medication and psychiatrists can be helpful; having a mental illness doesn’t mean that you’re weak, you’re just wired differently and you can have a normal life.
We are not inferior or defected or broken or whatever people want to call us. Information is key so I’ll try to provide more resources for people who seek to know about mental health conditions and those who have them.
Let’s show people that we have limitations, like everyone else but we still succeed. I see so many big and small victories on WordPress. People are evolving and growing. Becoming self-aware. Becoming more familiar with their symptoms and how to deal with them. Mental Health Literacy is key. We will do this endeavor and educate as many people as possible. It’s important that we share each other’s posts on social media, the best posts, the ones that really tackle the issue.
What bothers me is that some people seem to not be permeable to these ideas and concepts. They don’t know and they don’t want to know. I have no idea how to reach those types. The ones that will rant about Big Pharma and that all psychiatrists are quacks. The ones that tell you to stop taking your meds and just change your diet. Those people will be our biggest challenge but I believe we can do it anyway.
How is your mental health literacy? What are you doing to reduce stigma?
Images courtesy of Pixabay.