Mental health first aid responses of the public: results from an Australian national survey

Jorm, Anthony F.; Blewitt, Kelly A.; Griffiths, Kathleen M.; Kitchener, Betty A.; Parslow, Ruth A.
January 2005
BMC Psychiatry;2005, Vol. 5, p9
Academic Journal
Background: The prevalence of mental disorders is so high that members of the public will commonly have contact with someone affected. How they respond to that person (the mental health first aid response) may affect outcomes. However, there is no information on what members of the public might do in such circumstances. Methods: In a national survey of 3998 Australian adults, respondents were presented with one of four case vignettes and asked what they would do if that person was someone they had known for a long time and cared about. There were four types of vignette: depression, depression with suicidal thoughts, early schizophrenia, and chronic schizophrenia. Verbatim responses to the open-ended question were coded into categories. Results: The most common responses to all vignettes were to encourage professional help-seeking and to listen to and support the person. However, a significant minority did not give these responses. Much less common responses were to assess the problem or risk of harm, to give or seek information, to encourage self-help, or to support the family. Few respondents mentioned contacting a professional on the person's behalf or accompanying them to a professional. First aid responses were generally more appropriate in women, those with less stigmatizing attitudes, and those who correctly identified the disorder in the vignette. Conclusions: There is room for improving the range of mental health first aid responses in the community. Lack of knowledge of mental disorders and stigmatizing attitudes are important barriers to effective first aid.


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