"The situational approach to mental health literacy is chiefly concerned with the broad spectrum of difficult and challenging life events and human experiences across the lifespan..."
A situational approach to mental health literacy, centres around the idea of situational distress which encompasses a significantly challenging or troubling mixed experience of mind, thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, or behaviours, most often associated with an apparent challenging or decompensating life event, such as bereavement, a change in health status, relationship breakdown, financial, or occupational difficulties.
This distress may significantly overlap with many of the symptoms usually taken to suggest mental ‘illness’ or ‘disorder’ (such as those associated with depression and anxiety). Even when distress is sometimes inexplicable, a situational approach discourages any presumption of illness or disorder.
Additionally, integral to this approach is an appreciation of contextual factors that potentially impinge on the mental health and wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities – factors that may need to be simultaneously addressed along with individuals’ experience of distress. The situational approach emphasises the vital importance of building community capacity for taking a primary role in promotion, prevention, and early intervention for mental health and suicide prevention, with mental health and other allied health professionals complementing these efforts.
It also encourages lobbying and gaining the support of Government, corporate industry, and community leaders in addressing: needed improvement in social and mental health policy, and broader issues of contextual change to enhance mental health and wellbeing at the population level.
This approach does not downplay the importance of professional expertise in mental health, but proposes that this expertise be refocused, so that people with complex and very challenging mental health difficulties, are properly supported in environments and ways that focus on self-efficacy and recovery, without being unduly pathologised or diminished in dignity.
However, at the same time, this approach proposes the activation of new sources of capacity – both community and professional, for promotion, prevention, and early intervention for mental health, and emphasises the importance of altering the balance of preventative mental health and suicide prevention with primary and secondary prevention being given primacy.
Australian Institute of Male Health Studies
PO Box 2466
Whyalla Norrie , South Australia 5608
AustraliaTelephone: +61 8 7324 1901
James Cook University
Assoc Prof Abraham FrancisTownsville, Queensland
AustraliaTelephone: 07 478 14976
Men's Health Information & Resource Centre
Prof John MacdonaldWestern Sydney University
Locked Bag 1797 Penrith, NSW 2751