Background: Young people carry mental health problems disproportionate to the
size of their population, and rates of help-seeking are low. School mental health programs
have been developed to address these issues, founded on an educational approach to target
mental health literacy, and indirectly improve help-seeking. However, it has been suggested
that knowledge does not necessarily predict health behaviour in young people.
Objective/Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted to explore whether knowledge
about mental illness was related to attitudes towards mental illness and intentions to seek
help in a sample of adolescent girls (N=327).
Results: Results indicated a weak negative relationship between knowledge about mental
health and stigmatising attitudes about mental illness, but no relationship between
knowledge about mental health and intentions to seek help for mental health problems.
When mental health was categorised (e.g., optimal vs. poorer mental health), a negative
relationship between knowledge about and stigmatising attitudes toward mental health was
shown in those with poor mental health, but not for adolescents categorised as having
moderate or optimal mental health.
Conclusion: Findings suggest that while the traditional adage - more information on mental
health equals better attitude to mental health - may be true for those with ‘poorer’ levels of
mental health (e.g., high levels of psychological distress), it may not reduce stigma
associated with mental illness or motivate positive health behaviour in adolescent girls with
‘optimal’ mental health (e.g., low or no levels of psychological distress).