Knowledge of mental health symptoms and help seeking attitude in a population-based sample in Hong Kong

Ada Wai Tung Fung*, Linda Chiu Wa Lam*, Sandra Sau Man Chan, Sing Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Mental health symptoms can be subtle, resulting in delaying treatment. A prompt identification of mental signs and symptoms is important for preventing mental disorders in the public. This study examined whether local public have adequate knowledge to identify mental health symptoms and the need to get timely professional help.

Methods: The population-based telephone surveys were conducted in 2015 and 2018. It involved a random sample of 4033 respondents aged 12–75 years. Mental health knowledge and help seeking attitude were assessed using six vignettes depicting subtle and obvious symptoms of anxiety disorders, mixed anxiety and depressive disorders, and dementia. Logistic regression models were performed to examine association between mental health knowledge and help-seeking attitude.

Results: Individuals with poor knowledge in subtle symptoms were more likely to be males (t = − 5.0, p <.001), younger (F = 15.0, p <.001), have tertiary education (F = 15.0, p <.001), and employed (t = − 2.1, p =.037). The knowledge scores of subtle and obvious symptoms were 1.5 and 2.3 respectively. Binary logistic regression found that poor knowledge of subtle symptoms was associated with reluctance to professional help seeking.

Conclusions: Poorly identified subtle mental health symptoms is a major barrier to early professional help in highly educated working males. Future research should explore specific interventions to increase knowledge and professional help seeking in this group.

Original languageEnglish
Article number39
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

User-Defined Keywords

  • Literacy
  • Mental health
  • General public
  • Barriers
  • Prevention
  • Psychiatry
  • Mood symptoms
  • Onset
  • Severity
  • Recognition


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