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Miranda Van Tilburg


Many individuals do not seek help for a mental health problem due to stigma and fear of rejection by peers and family. Researchers have highlighted that the age group least likely to seek help is youth. Stigma acts as an important barrier to help-seeking. Evidence indicating how mental health literacy can reduce stigma and encourage help-seeking remains inconclusive. In this study, the health belief model was used to understand how college students perceived an individual's susceptibility to mental illness and the barriers associated with seeking help. A posttest-only randomized controlled trial evaluated the impact of the Is It Just Me? mental health literacy program among college students and assessed whether the program was effective in generating changes in knowledge, lessening stigma, and encouraging help-seeking intentions should students experience a mental health problem. Gender and age data were collected for background information. The results of 2-tailed t tests showed less stigma p = .047, t = -2.02 in the experimental (M= 18.30, SD (2.21) compared to the control condition (M 17.02, SD (3.78)), with no effect on knowledge. With respect to help-seeking intentions, the control condition scored significantly higher than the experimental condition. In conclusion, college students who participated in this short-term mental health literacy program reported less stigma but also less help-seeking. Thus, the program contributed to a greater understanding and acceptance of people living with mental illness. Breaking down stigma and encouraging early intervention for students to seek help if they experience mental health problems can lead to better recovery outcomes and healthier trajectories.