Objective: To assess depression literacy, help-seeking and help-offering to others in members of the police force in the state of Victoria, Australia. Methods: All staff in police stations involved in a cluster randomised controlled trial of an integrated workplace mental health intervention were invited to participate. Survey questions covered sociodemographic and employment information, recognition of depression in a vignette, stigma, treatment beliefs, willingness to assist co-workers with mental health problems, help-giving and help-seeking behaviours, and intentions to seek help. Using the baseline dataset associated with the trial, the paper presents a descriptive analysis of mental health literacy and helping behaviours, comparing police station leaders and lower ranks. Results: Respondents were 806 staff, comprising 618 lower-ranked staff and 188 leaders. Almost 84% of respondents were able to correctly label the problem described in the vignette. Among those who had helped someone with a mental health problem, both lower ranks and leaders most commonly reported ‘talking to the person’ although leaders were more likely to facilitate professional help. Leaders’ willingness to assist the person and confidence in doing so was very high, and over 80% of leaders appropriately rated police psychologists, general practitioners, psychologists, talking to a peer and contacting welfare as helpful. However, among both leaders and lower ranks with mental health problems, the proportion of those unlikely to seek professional help was greater than those who were likely to seek it. Conclusion: Knowledge about evidence-based interventions for depression was lower in this police sample than surveys in the general population, pointing to the need for education and training to improve mental health literacy. Such education should also aim to overcome barriers to professional help-seeking. Interventions that aim to improve mental health literacy and help-seeking behaviour appear to be suitable targets for better protecting police member mental health.
- helping behaviours
- Mental health literacy