Half of all lifetime mental health disorders emerge in childhood, so intervening in the childhood years is critical to prevent chronic trajectories of mental health disorders. The prevalence of child mental health disorders is not decreasing despite the increased availability of evidence-based interventions. One key reason for the high prevalence and low treatment uptake may be low levels of child mental health literacy in the general community. Mental health literacy refers to knowledge and beliefs about mental health disorders that aid in their recognition, prevention and management. There is emerging evidence of poor recognition of child mental health problems in the community and low levels of parental knowledge about how to seek help, along with high levels of stigmatising attitudes. Although Australia has been a world leader in research and practice in improving mental health literacy for adolescent and adult mental health disorders, particularly depression and anxiety, mental health literacy for childhood disorders has been largely overlooked. In order to improve knowledge of child mental health disorders, reduce stigma, improve appropriate help-seeking and impact on the prevalence of child mental health disorders, we argue that a national initiative focussing on increasing mental health literacy for childhood disorders is urgently needed.
- mental health literacy
- child mental health