Mental health literacy: a cross-cultural approach to knowledge and beliefs about depression, schizophrenia and generalized anxiety disorder
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Many families worldwide have at least one member with a behavioral or mental disorder, and yet the majority of the public fails to correctly recognize symptoms of mental illness. Previous research has found that Mental Health Literacy (MHL)-the knowledge and positive beliefs about mental disorders-tends to be higher in European and North American cultures, compared to Asian and African cultures. Nonetheless quantitative research examining the variables that explain this cultural difference remains limited. The purpose of our study was fourfold: (a) to validate measures of MHL cross-culturally, (b) to examine the MHL model quantitatively, (c) to investigate cultural differences in the MHL model, and (d) to examine collectivism as a predictor of MHL. We validated measures of MHL in European American and Indian samples. The results lend strong quantitative support to the MHL model. Recognition of symptoms of mental illness was a central variable: greater recognition predicted greater endorsement of social causes of mental illness and endorsement of professional help-seeking as well as lesser endorsement of lay help-seeking. The MHL model also showed an overwhelming cultural difference; namely, lay help-seeking beliefs played a central role in the Indian sample, and a negligible role in the European American sample. Further, collectivism was positively associated with causal beliefs of mental illness in the European American sample, and with lay help-seeking beliefs in the Indian sample. These findings demonstrate the importance of understanding cultural differences in beliefs about mental illness, particularly in relation to help-seeking beliefs.