What’s in a name? Is accurate recognition and labelling of mental disorders by young people associated with better help-seeking and treatment preferences?

  • Annemarie Wright
  • Anthony F. Jorm
  • Meredith G. Harris
  • Patrick D. McGorry



The possible benefits or harms of using psychiatric labels in the community have been a focus of debate for many decades. The aim of this study was to examine associations between the accuracy of labelling of depression or psychosis by young people aged 12–25 and their help-seeking, treatment and self-help preferences, whilst controlling for a range of potential confounding factors.


A randomly selected population sample of 1,207 young people aged 12–25 years from several regions of Victoria, Australia, was interviewed via a telephone survey. The structured interviews used vignettes of a young person with either depression or psychosis followed by a series of questions related to recognition of disorder and recommended forms of help and treatment. Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to measure the association between a range of help-seeking, treatment and self-help preferences and the predictor variables of accuracy of recognition, socio-demographic background and exposure to mental health problems.


Correct labelling of the disorder was the predictor variable most frequently associated with choice of appropriate help and treatment for both the depression and psychosis vignettes. In regard to self-help preferences, correct labelling of the depression vignette was only associated with being less likely to recommend smoking marijuana to relax. Correct labelling of the psychosis vignette, or labelling it as depression, was associated with being less likely to recommend dealing with the problem alone.


These findings support the view that improving the use of psychiatric labels by young people is beneficial, because it facilitates appropriate help-seeking and treatment choice. The label may be the cue to activating a schema about appropriate action to take.

Key words

help-seeking mental health literacy labelling depression psychosis 



The study was supported by grants from ANZ Trustees and beyondblue: the national depression initiative. Support for data analysis and writing was provided by the Colonial Foundation and an NHMRC Fellowship. Ruth Parslow assisted with the statistical analysis and Amy Morgan with refinement of the text.


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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag Darmstadt 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annemarie Wright
    • 1
  • Anthony F. Jorm
    • 1
  • Meredith G. Harris
    • 1
  • Patrick D. McGorry
    • 1
  1. 1.ORYGEN Research CentreUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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