This study aims to explore attitudes towards, complications of and preventive measures for depression and the barriers that result in delays in seeking help among the various ethnic groups in Penang, Malaysia. In June 2007 a questionnaire-based survey was undertaken in Penang. Face-to-face interviews were conducted, and 1855 respondents were approached to participate in the study by adopting a cluster random sampling method. A 25-item questionnaire was used to explore public attitudes towards, complications of and preventive measures for depression and delays in seeking help. A total of 1149 (61.94%) showed willingness to participate in the survey. Ethnically, 490 (42.6%) of the respondents who participated in the survey were Malay, while 413 (35.9%) were Chinese, 149 (13%) Indian and 97 (8.4%) from other ethnic minorities. The mean age of the respondents was 30 years (SD ± 11.5). In evaluating public attitudes, the majority (n = 910, 79.2%) agreed with the statement that family and friends can enhance the depression recovery process by providing more care and attention to the patient and this was found to be statistically significant (P ≤0.001). More than one-third of the respondents (n = 437, 38.0%) perceived depression as a normal medical condition and believed that it subsides automatically. The majority (n = 830, 72.2%) stated that depression results in social problems, while some felt that it can lead to raised blood pressure (n = 518, 45.1%). In terms of prevention, most of the respondents indicated that one can prevent depression by maintaining a good social life. In evaluating the barriers to seeking professional help, the majority (n = 582, 50.7%) stated that they did not believe they were at risk, with the next largest group identifying a lack of awareness regarding the signs and symptoms. However, a positive attitude was observed towards the complications and prevention of depression. Initiatives to increase mental health literacy will prove fruitful in neutralising the negative public perceptions towards the treatment of depression and barriers to seeking professional help.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.