Research has established that half of all mental health concerns emerge during childhood years. There are several effective evidence-based supports for children who are experiencing mental health problems, but many children do not receive professional help. One reason for this may be low levels of mental health literacy and high levels of stigma among parents and the general community. The article by Tully et al. (2019) presents a case for a national approach to improving mental health literacy to improve appropriate help-seeking and treatment uptake, and in turn, reduce prevalence of child and youth mental health problems.
The term mental health literacy refers to knowledge and beliefs about mental health problems that improve their recognition, prevention and treatment. There is a lack of research on mental health literacy for children under 12 years, but recent studies show low levels of parental knowledge about how to get help for child and youth mental health concerns. To address low levels of mental health literacy, community-wide campaigns and initiatives are needed to improve knowledge about signs and symptoms of mental health problems, knowledge about risk factors and causes, and knowledge about help-seeking and availability of services and supports. Any new initiatives must be carefully evaluated to examine impacts, and any unintended consequences.
Tully, L. A., Hawes, D. J., Doyle, F. L., Sawyer, M. G., & Dadds, M. R. (2019). A national child mental health literacy initiative is needed to reduce childhood mental health disorders. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 53(4), 286-290.