Common misconceptions and attitudes toward psychology and mental health: a Malaysian context

Yeap Kah, Min Reiko (2008) Common misconceptions and attitudes toward psychology and mental health: a Malaysian context. PhD thesis, University of Malaya.

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This study examines the Malaysian public’s knowledge and attitude towards psychology and mental health. The study aims to help improve the public understanding of the diversity of psychology, which is far beyond just simply common sense or limited to the study of mental illness. In addition, it is also the objective of this study to examine how much the general public knows about mental health as well as to explore effective tools to promote good mental health. This research consists of two studies. Study one, a household survey, involved face to face interviews with a representative sample of the Malaysian population residing in Klang Valley. A total of 587 respondents aged 18 and above (90% response rate) responded to a series of questions in relation to psychology and mental health issues developed based on previously published studies and interviews with psychologists/ psychology instructors, sociologists, social workers, and psychology graduates. Respondents were requested to answer ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘I don’t know’, as well as to specify how they learned about the information. Following that, an attitude scale was presented to the participants, in which respondents were requested to rate how much they agree to the statements. The findings indicated that the majority of the respondents (90%) did not have good knowledge of psychology and mental health issues. However, all respondents displayed a more or less neutral attitude towards psychology (the profession) as well as mental health issues. The results seemed to suggest that respondents’ knowledge level is not related to their attitude level. Factors predicting good mental health knowledge, attitude, and help-seeking tendency for mental health issues were explored. Regression analysis indicated that age, ethnic background, religion, education level, and residential location are the few demographic characteristics found to be significantly related to either respondent’s knowledge, attitude towards mental health issues or help seeking behaviour. The second study was conducted using a cross-sectional quantitative survey of 246 university/ college students enrolled in psychology courses at the undergraduate level in four universities/ colleges in Klang Valley. A scale, similar to the first study, with additional items included, was developed to examine students’ attitude and knowledge about psychology and mental health. The findings indicated that undergraduate students harbor misconceptions about psychology regardless of their declared major (psychology and non-psychology major) and demographic characteristics. Interestingly, students’ knowledge level in both psychology and mental health were significantly better than the general public. Among the 246 student participants, 83 student participants who were enrolled in the Introductory Psychology course agreed to take part in a longitudinal study. The same questionnaires were redistributed to the students upon completion of the course. The pre- and post-course design was conducted to examine if introductory psychology course would help dispel misconceptions. Results indicate that the number of correct responses increased significantly suggesting that misconceptions about psychology and mental health can be dispelled. Based on the research findings, it is obvious that the knowledge of psychology and mental health among general public is very limited. Although students enrolled in psychology courses are better informed, misconceptions prevailed. Steps should be taken to improve public’s understanding and attitude; some suggestions include positive image presentation, dissemination of accurate information by the mass media, which was rated as the primary source for information on psychology and mental health.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences > School of Medicine
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2013 06:25
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2013 06:25

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