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Evaluating Mental Health Literacy in Medical Students in the United Kingdom

Hearn, Jasmine and Marwood, Marrison (2019) Evaluating Mental Health Literacy in Medical Students in the United Kingdom. Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice. ISSN 1755-6228

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Abstract

There is urgent need to explore medical students’ understandings of mental illness to better support this high-risk group. This study aimed to evaluate mental health literacy in medical students using the Mental Health Literacy Scale (MHLS), and provide validation of the measure. 251 participants were recruited from medical schools across the U.K. Participants completed demographic details and the MHLS. This paper reports total MHLS scores and their relationships with demographics and experiences with mental illness. The mean MHLS score was 127.69. MHL was significantly higher in females, and students in later years of study (p < .05). Over 40% of respondents reported having personal experience of mental illness. This, as well as having a close friend or family member with a mental illness, was associated with higher MHL (p < .05). This study presents the first to use the MHLS and provide validation of this measure in medical students. Despite high rates of personal experience with mental health issues, medical students’ average MHLS scores were comparable to studies of non-medical student groups. Medical schools should aim to build students’ confidence in recognizing and seeking help for mental health issues from the first year of medical training. MHL is a multifaceted issue; further work is required to improve awareness of risk factors, to better understand why males demonstrate poorer MHL scores than females, and to work towards improving MHL in males.

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