Mental-health literacy can be defined as "knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders that aid their recognition, management or prevention." It is thought that poor mental-health literacy is a major factor in low or inappropriate treatment-seeking among individuals affected by mental disorders and this idea has been backed up by studies involving people with anxiety, mood and substance-use disorders. Researchers in Australia looked at mental-health literacy in 158 women who had bulimia or similar conditions. The participants believed that bulimia would be difficult to treat and that even if initial treatments were successful relapse would be likely. GPs, psychologists, counsellors and close friends were all perceived to be helpful. Lifestyle changes, including taking vitamins and minerals, were also highly regarded. However, the participants were ambivalent about psychiatrists and using medication to treat the condition. Most participants believed that bulimia was common among women in the community and many had occasionally or often thought that it 'might not be too bad' to have bulimia. Low self-esteem was thought to be the most likely cause of bulimia. The study concluded that the participants held some beliefs 'likely to be conducive to lower or inappropriate treatment seeking,' and called for poor mental-health literacy to be addressed in early-intervention programmes.
Mond, Jonathan M. ... [et al] - Mental health literacy and eating disorders: what do women with bulimic eating disorders think and know about bulimia nervosa and its treatment? Journal of Mental Health December 2008 17(6), 565-575