Recognition of mental disorders among a multiracial population in Southeast Asia

Siow Ann Chong, Edimansyah Abdin, Louisa Picco, Shirlene Pang, Anitha Jeyagurunathan, Janhavi Ajit Vaingankar, Kian Woon Kwok, Mythily Subramaniam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Mental health literacy is an important mediating factor in help-seeking behavior. An important component of this literacy is the proper recognition of mental disorders. The aim of this population-based study in Singapore was to determine the proportion of adults in the resident population who were able to recognize vignettes pertaining to alcohol abuse, dementia, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia correctly. The sociodemographic characteristics that were associated with the ability to correctly recognize these disorders were also examined. Methods: This was a nationwide cross-sectional study that involved establishing mental health literacy using a vignette approach. Respondents were recruited using a disproportionate stratified sampling design by age and ethnic groups. Face-to face-interviews were conducted with respondents aged 18 to 65 years belonging to Chinese, Malay, Indian and Other ethnic groups. Results: A total of 3,006 respondents completed the survey (response rate of 71 %). The most well recognized conditions were dementia (66.3 %), alcohol abuse (57.1 %) and depression (55.2 %). The least recognized were OCD (28.7 %) and schizophrenia (11.5 %). Younger age and higher educational levels were found to be significant factors associated with the better recognition of specific disorders. Conclusion: The relatively high rate of recognition of dementia was likely to be due to the emphasis on public education programmes on dementia which is viewed as an emerging challenge due to Singapore's rapidly ageing population. The role of education and the portrayal of depression and alcohol related problems in the local mass media are possible influences in their better recognition as compared to OCD and schizophrenia. Sociodemographic characteristics influencing mental health literacy need to be considered in planning intervention strategies that target mental health literacy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Help-seeking
  • Mental health literacy
  • Population study
  • Public beliefs
  • Vignette

Cite this