Mental Health Literacy and Why it Matters

Bipolar doesn’t mean moody. Depression isn’t a funk or having the blues. ADHD is not unorganized or lazy. Psychosis doesn’t mean you’re crazy or have become unhinged. OCD doesn’t mean you are a neatnik. A person who consistently lies isn’t necessarily gaslighting. Sometimes a liar is simply a liar.

So, What is Mental Health Literacy?

Mental health literacy is an important empowerment tool, as it helps people better understand their own mental health and enables them to act upon this information. It increases people’s resilience and control over their mental health and enhances help-seeking self-efficacy. This includes knowing when and where to seek help and developing self-management skills. It can also empower people to effectively manage long-term mental health conditions.

The social, emotional, cultural, and economic costs of mental illnesses affect people across community, business, school, health care, family, and individual sectors. Despite the magnitude of the impact, mental illness is an all-too-often a stigmatized topic all over the world. With that understanding comes less stigma and fear, and as research shows, an increased likelihood to refer others to services and/or engage in help-seeking behaviors.

Mental health literacy consists of several components, which were created to overcome growing obstacles to mental health and address social stigma and prejudice. These components include:

  •  Recognizing mental health disorders such as signs and symptoms 
  •  Knowledge of risk factors: knowing what factors put individuals at greatest risk for specific mental health disorders
  • Knowledge of self-treatment: knowing how someone can help themselves
  • Knowledge of how to seek and access mental health information