Mental health literacy: focus on developing countries

  • K A Ganasen
  • S Parker
  • C J Hugo
  • D J Stein
  • R A Emsley
  • S Seedat
Keywords: Mental health literacy, Developing countries, Mental health services


Mental health literacy refers to knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management and prevention. This is a non-systematic review of published articles on mental health literacy in the general population and among primary healthcare workers, in particular, in developing countries, sourced from Medline, PsychInfo and African Healthline databases (1990-2006). Our review of the literature suggests that public knowledge about mental disorders as medical conditions, and their evidence based treatment strategies, in developing countries may be generally poorly or inaccurately understood. The review also reveals that improving the mental health literacy among primary health care professionals is imperative. Poor mental health literacy can be an obstacle to providing treatment for those in need, and is of particular concern in low and middle-income countries where mental health services are already scarce. It is likely that strategies for improvement will need to be comprehensive and innovative, taking advantage of opportunities and meeting challenges faced in the developing world.

African Journal of Psychiatry Vol. 11 (1) 2008: pp. 23-28

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eISSN: 1994-8220