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Mental health literacy towards depression among non-medical students at a Malaysian university

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Background: The aim of the present study was to evaluate the knowledge and perception of depression among students of University Sains Malaysia (USM), in Penang, Peninsular Malaysia.

Method: Face-to-face interviews were conducted using a pre-validated 21-item questionnaire among students at USM.

Results: A total of 500 respondents participated in the survey comprising 24.6% (n=123) males and 75.4% (n=377) females. Half (50.0%, n=250) were Malays, followed by Chinese (44.0%, n=220) and Indians (6.0%, n=30). Whilst exploring the respondents' knowledge of the symptoms of depression, it was found that Chinese females had a comparatively better knowledge (P=0.058) of the symptoms of depression in comparison with Malays and Indians. Overall, social issues were attributed as the possible cause of depression. A cursory knowledge level was observed regarding medication for depression. Female students were more inclined towards the use of alternative and traditional medicines. However, with regard to seeking professional help, consultation with a psychiatrist was preferred by the majority.

Conclusion: Overall, a moderate level of knowledge about the symptoms of depression and a cursory knowledge of its therapy were observed. Those with personal experience of depression had better knowledge of the symptoms and therapy. Alternative treatments and traditional medicines were also favoured. There is a risk that this may affect the ability of Malaysian youths to seek evidence-based mental health care.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Senior Lecturer, College of Clinical Pharmacy, King Faisal University, Al-Ahsa, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Alumni Research Fellow, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University Sains Malaysia, Pulau Penang, Malaysia 2: Associate Professor, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University Sains Malaysia, Pulau Penang, Malaysia 3: Senior Lecturer, Discipline of Social and Administrative Pharmacy, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University Sains Malaysia, Pulau Penang, Malaysia

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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