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Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction

Mental Health Literacy and Stigma

Summary The project investigates mental health literacy and stigmatising attitudes towards the mentally ill in a sample of 15-20 year olds
Project lead Michelle Dey
Duration 04/2017 - 03/2019
Funding Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)
Cooperating partners Centre for Mental Health (University of Melbourne); Institut für Bildungsevaluation (UZH); Fachstelle Suchtprävention des Mittelschul- und Berufsbildungsamts Zürich


Mental health literacy (defined as knowledge and ideas about mental disorders that contribute to improving one's own mental health and that of others) and stigmatising attitudes towards persons with mental disorders have so far been studied mostly among adults. However, it is important to explore these concepts also among adolescents and young adults, as mental disorders usually appear comparatively early in life and have a considerable impact on the individuals with mental disorders. Furthermore, adolescents and young adults differ from older people in the way they deal with mental health problems.


The main objectives of the research project are to investigate mental health literacy and stigmatising attitudes towards persons with mental disorders in a sample of adolescents and young adults. Additionally the aim is to identify factors predicting low/high health literacy and stigmatising attitudes. In addition, the results will be compared with a similar study from Australia.


Between November 2017 and June 2018, a total of 4983 students from 314 classes at 105 vocational schools and specialized secondary schools / grammar schools in German-speaking Switzerland were surveyed. The students usually completed the online questionnaire during a school lesson on a PC, notebook, tablet or smartphone. The core element of the questionnaire was a vignette (= case) describing a young person (called Anna or Luke) with a psychological problem. Participants were randomly given one of the following five vignettes:

1) depression;

2) alcohol abuse;

3) depression and alcohol abuse combined;

4) schizophrenia;

5) social phobia (= social anxiety).

Most of the subsequent questions were related to the respective case.

Value of the project

The project contributes to our understanding of what adolescents and young adults in Switzerland know about mental disorders, how they themselves would deal or have dealt with a mental disorder. Additionally it provides an understanding on how they (would) support mentally ill peers, how they assess the effectiveness of certain prevention and treatment measures for mental disorders, and whether they have any stigmatizing attitudes towards mentally ill people. Based on these results, measures can be planned to improve the mental health competence of adolescents and reduce stigmatising attitudes.


Exchange of experience and impulse conference, 28 March 2019, Middle School and Vocational Training Office of the Canton of Zurich

Präsentation Tagung 29. März 2019 (PDF, 1014 KB)

Workshop Tagung 29. März 2019 (PDF, 772 KB)


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