Mental health literacy, treatment preferences, and barriers in Salvadorian parents

Carly Johnco*, Alison Salloum, Nicole M. McBride, Sandra L. Cepeda, Daniel Guttfreund, Juan Carlos Novoa, Eric A. Storch

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Parents are pivotal in accessing treatment for their children, yet we know little about youth mental health literacy in parents. This is particularly the case in developing countries such as El Salvador, where good parent mental health literacy about children’s psychological problems may play a pivotal role in being able to navigate treatment access in an already underfunded and poorly resourced system. This study examined parent mental health literacy about child anxiety disorders in El Salvador; parent perceptions and preferences for treatment-seeking; and perceived barriers to accessing mental health treatment. Parents (N = 271) of youth aged 4–17 in El Salvador answered questions about three vignettes depicting different childhood anxiety disorders. The majority of parents did not recognize specific youth anxiety disorders. Less than 5% of parents identified the vignettes as a mental health problem, most commonly attributing symptoms to personal weakness or stress. Parents endorsed generally positive views about seeking treatment, preferring non-pharmacological mental health treatments, informal support from grandparents and religious leaders, and handling the problem personally. The most common barriers to treatment-seeking were related to cost and service availability. Improving parent mental health literacy may assist with treatment-seeking. Results have implications for mental health policy decisions and service implementation in El Salvador.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)139-164
    Number of pages26
    JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health
    Issue number3
    Early online date28 Jun 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • anxiety disorders
    • child
    • parent
    • developing countries
    • mental health literacy


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