Mental Health Literacy: What Is It, and Why Is It Important?

When we talk openly about mental health, we are making progress towards reducing the stigma. We all have mental health, but in many schools health education does not cover mental health education. In a 2022 survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) two in three students agreed that they would like to learn more about mental health in school. Only 56% of students feel like their school cares about their mental health.

What is mental health literacy?

To understand mental health literacy, we first have to understand what health literacy is. Health literacy is the ability to find, read, understand, and use information to make choices about your health and the care you receive. Mental health literacy is made up of four main components:

  1. Building skills to get and stay mentally healthy
  2. Improve understanding of common mental disorders (symptoms, signs) and treatments
  3. Reducing stigma
  4. Increasing effective help-seeking

In many educational settings, health class is part of the curriculum. It may be a semester-long class or part of the main curriculum and take place the entire school year. In one study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, only 41% of schools had created or implemented for social, emotional, and mental well-being. With the students themselves requesting more mental health information in a school setting, the need for schools to step up is great.

How can you improve your mental health literacy?

First, it is important to know how to find information that is backed by research. You might have heard of a peer-reviewed journal in your classes, or have had a teacher tell you to not trust Wikipedia in the past. Sites such as Google Scholar have many peer-reviewed research articles, meaning the research was reviewed by a panel for accuracy. Federal Government health sites (followed by .gov) are more reliable as well, including Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Nation Institute of Mental Health. Even with information found on these websites, it is important to think about who is funding the research, the reasoning for the research, and the credibility of the professionals sharing their knowledge.

When you have a mental health question, do you have a website you turn to? Are you receiving mental health education at school?

Moderator ★

Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: We look forward to talking to you!

You may also like...

Leave a Reply