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Public knowledge and awareness about mental illnesses 

Public knowledge and awareness about mental illnesses
Public knowledge and awareness about mental illnesses

Anthony F. Jorm

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date: 05 August 2020

For major physical health problems, like cancer and cardiovascular disease, members of the public typically have considerable knowledge about what they can do for prevention or early intervention, or have knowledge of treatments and services available. For example, in the area of cardiovascular disease, there is widespread knowledge about modifiable risk factors like smoking and exercise, people know the value of screening and treatment for hypertension and high cholesterol, many people have the first aid skills to apply cardiopulmonary resuscitation in an emergency, and some would know the warning signs of a stroke and the need to call an ambulance immediately.

Knowledge about mental disorders in the community has generally lagged behind that for major physical diseases. This is surprising given the high prevalence of mental disorders. Community surveys in many countries show high rates, with 1-year prevalence rates of 10 % to 19 % and lifetime prevalence rates of 18 % to 36 % being typical (Kessler et al., 2009). This high prevalence means that the whole population will either be personally affected by a mental disorder or have close contact with other people who are. Given the high exposure to mental disorders in the population, it can be argued that everyone needs some knowledge and skill to take action to improve community mental health.

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