|dc.description.abstract||Background: Mental illness is recognised as a global public health concern due to the
significant amount of morbidity and disability accounted for by mental illness. Additionally,
the stigma and discrimination towards mentally ill persons are a global concern and have a
significant impact on public health. Limited knowledge, negative attitudes and discriminatory
behaviours are associated with reduced help-seeking behaviour, under-treatment and social
exclusion of mentally ill persons. Ignorance about mental health problems has contributed
significantly to stigmatisation resulting in the coining of the term ‘mental health literacy’.
Research suggests that nursing students have mental health literacy levels comparable to those
of the general public or layperson at the start of their studies, and various other studies report
that nursing students have negative attitudes towards, and poor knowledge of, mental illness.
It is therefore important to address the mental health literacy of undergraduate nursing students,
as a lack of skills and negative perceptions create a barrier to nursing students’ ability to engage
with, and care for, mentally ill patients.
Aim and objectives: The aim of the study was to determine the mental health literacy of
undergraduate nursing students at a selected university in the Western Cape, South Africa. The
study had two objectives, which were (1) to determine undergraduate nursing students’
knowledge of mental illness and (2) to determine undergraduate nursing students’ attitudes that
promote recognition of mental disorders and help-seeking.
Method: A quantitative, descriptive survey design was used to conduct this study at a
university in the Western Cape. The target population consisted of 1162 student nurses who
were registered in the Bachelor of Nursing programme at the selected university in 2019. The
sample for the study was 294 nursing students.
The mental health literacy scale (MHLS) was distributed to the participants for data collection
and the response rate was 100%. Data analysis was done with the aid of a statistician using the
Statistical Package for the Social Sciences, version 25. Nominal as well as ordinal data were
analysed using descriptive analysis. The process and purpose of the study were explained to
the participants, who gave their consent prior to the distributing of the questionnaires. The
researcher obtained permission from the registrar of the university before commencing with
Findings: The study found that the nursing students who participated in this study generally
had good knowledge of mental disorders and maintained positive attitudes towards mental
illness and appropriate help-seeking for mental illness; however, they also maintained some
negative attitudes towards mental illness, especially in the aspect of social distance from
mentally ill persons.
Recommendations: A qualitative approach may provide a better understanding of nursing
students’ mental health literacy, especially regarding attitudes towards mental illness and help seeking