Health literacy is how well a person can obtain, process, and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions.
Health literacy has direct and indirect links with:
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care 2015 state that 60 percent of Australians have low individual health literacy.
Mental health literacy helps people to know how to identify when they are experiencing a mental health issue and what causes these experiences. It empowers them to work both with and independently of services to improve their health.
Health literacy responsiveness is the provision of services, programs, support, and information to promote equitable access and engagement for all people in the community.
As a clinician, you can put many things in place to influence your patients’ understanding of health information and the actions they take.
A service that is responsive to mental health literacy will ensure that their service users can access information that makes sense to them. It allows them to follow the discussion without feeling lost and make informed decisions about their mental and physical health.
Mental health literacy responsive services can potentially reduce dependence on services and contribute to improving equity and health outcomes for people with lived experience of mental health issues and their families, carers, and friends. It can also help you to communicate more effectively with your patient and reduce the likelihood of your patients experiencing poorer outcomes.
People with low health literacy are less likely to ask questions even if they do not understand something. This may in turn affect how they follow your instructions or treatments. Therefore, by using a range of strategies that support a patient’s health literacy, you will be better able to provide safe and quality care.
Use these communication techniques to enhance how you work with your patient and your patients’ health literacy:
To know more about how you can improve your practice/organisation ‘s mental health literacy responsiveness, take a look at the Mental Health Literacy Responsiveness Framework.
The Mental Health Literacy Responsiveness Framework and its resources were developed by the Mental Health Commission New South Wales through a co-design process with people with lived experience of mental health issues, their families and carers and service providers, to help health workers and services to improve the access, experience and satisfaction of people using your services.
Quality and practice managers can also look here to understand how the 11 action areas within the Mental Health Literacy Responsiveness Framework correspond with various accreditation standards that might be relevant to your services.
There may be times when your patients will need to wait for a while before they can see a specialist mental health professional. Use our ‘While You Wait’ suit of resources to support your patients to actively manage their wellbeing and prepare for their first appointment.
The Service Journey Checklist can be used by general practice, allied health services, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, community managed organisations providing clinical services and community health organisations, to check on how your service can better support people with lived experience of mental health issues.