Examining mental health literacy, help seeking behaviours, and mental health outcomes in UK university students

Paul Gorczynski (Department of Sport and Exercise, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Wendy Sims-schouten (School of Education and Continuing Studies, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Denise Hill (Department of Sport and Exercise, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Janet Clare Wilson (Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)

The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

ISSN: 1755-6228

Publication date: 13 March 2017

Abstract

Purpose

Many university students in the UK experience mental health problems and little is known about their overall mental health literacy and help-seeking behaviours. The purpose of this paper is to ascertain levels of mental health literacy in UK university students and to examine whether mental health literacy is associated with better mental health outcomes and intentions to seek professional care.

Design/methodology/approach

A total of 380 university students at a university in the south of England completed online surveys measuring multiple dimensions of mental health literacy, help-seeking behaviour, distress, and well-being.

Findings

Mental health literacy in the students sampled was lower than seen in previous research. Women exhibited higher levels of mental health literacy than men and postgraduate students scored higher than undergraduate students. Participants with previous mental health problems had higher levels of mental health literacy than those with no history of mental health problems. Individuals were most likely to want to seek support from a partner or family member and most participants indicated they would be able to access mental health information online. Mental health literacy was significantly positively correlated with help-seeking behaviour, but not significantly correlated with distress or well-being.

Practical implications

Strategies, such as anonymous online resources, should be designed to help UK university students become more knowledgeable about mental health and comfortable with seeking appropriate support.

Originality/value

This study is the first to examine multiple dimensions of mental health literacy in UK university students and compare it to help-seeking behaviour, distress, and well-being.

Keywords

Citation

Gorczynski, P., Sims-schouten, W., Hill, D. and Wilson, J. (2017), "Examining mental health literacy, help seeking behaviours, and mental health outcomes in UK university students", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 111-120. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMHTEP-05-2016-0027

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Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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