Western Undergraduate Psychology Journal


This article aimed to describe gender differences in the mental health literacy of university students in western societies and to provide a brief overview of how gender socialization might contribute to these differences. A review of studies providing information on gender differences in university students’ mental health literacy was carried out. The literature showed that the importance of mental health literacy lay in its positive association with better mental health status through the enabling of help-seeking behaviours. University students have some knowledge of mental health and a majority were able to recognize common disorders. However, the ability to recognize disorders did not guarantee adequate knowledge. Similar to adults, young people were more likely to correctly identify depressive symptoms than they were to correctly label schizophrenic symptoms. Males consistently demonstrated less awareness of disorders compared to females, but gender differences did not exist in all circumstances. In terms of help-seeking, young adults preferred informal help from friends and family over professional services, a trend that was especially pronounced in young men. This review suggested that gender does affect mental health literacy in post-secondary students. Although mechanisms to explain how gender mediates literacy can be proposed, gender is not a categorical predictor of differences in university students’ mental health literacy. More comprehensive research in young people’s knowledge of and attitudes toward mental health is needed.

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