Aim: There is a huge treatment gap for schizophrenia in low and middle income countries. Mental
health literacy is a pre-requisite for prompt and appropriate help-seeking for schizophrenia. The
current study assessed mental health literacy about schizophrenia in a sample of secondary school
students in Lagos, Nigeria.
Study Design and Method: A cross-sectional study design was used. Secondary school students
(n=156) attending a public co-educational secondary school in Lagos, south-West Nigeria
completed a vignette-based questionnaire which assessed literacy about schizophrenia.
Results: None of the respondents accurately identified schizophrenia in the case vignette.
However, 25.6% identified the vignette as a mental disorder, while 3.9%, 2.6% and 0.6% labelled it
as emotional problem, depression and mania respectively. Stigmatising labels such as
‘insane /’mad’/’brain touch’ were used by 14.1% of the respondents. About a fifth (21.2%) perceived the
vignette as a reaction to stress or negative emotional state. Other responses included drug
addiction (3.2%), evil spirit possession (5.8%), cultism (3.9%), HIV-AIDS (3.9%) and guilt (5.1%).
Less than a quarter (23.7%) of the respondents recommended psychiatrists/mental health services
as the appropriate source of help-seeking.
Conclusion: The huge knowledge deficits about schizophrenia in this limited sample suggest a
significantly unmet need for mental health literacy interventions among adolescents in Nigeria. This
may negatively impact on appropriate help-seeking and outcomes of individuals with
schizophrenia. Further larger scale studies are needed to confirm and extend our findings.