Understanding Teacher Candidate and Nursing Student Mental Health Literacy: An Application of the Theory of Planned Behaviour

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Dods, Jennifer C.
Mental health , Teacher candidates , Nursing students , Theory of Planned Behaviour
The original intent of this work was to gain an understanding of the personal mental health and mental health literacy of teacher candidates and nursing students, and to understand their intentions to support mental health in their professional fields. Over the years the necessity for teachers and nurses to support mental health across a range of educational and healthcare settings has only increased and while services and supports have also been added, the pandemic highlighted that there is still a great deal to be done. Both professions report feeling inadequately prepared for the role of supporting mental health in practice despite seeing it as essential to overall well-being. To better understand these factors, the Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 1991) and Mental Health Literacy (Jorm, 2000) were used as the foundation for a survey conducted with 371 teacher candidates and 167 nursing students during their baccalaureate program. Students were asked about their own personal mental health, and their knowledge and preparation, attitudes, beliefs and perceived behavioural control to support mental health in practice. Descriptive statistics were analyzed, and a predictive analysis was done on the variables within the Theory of Planned Behaviour. The results indicated that attitudes and perceived behavioural control did predict intentions to support mental health in practice however these relationships were mediated in both cohorts by underlying behavioural beliefs. Quantitative results must be interpreted with caution due to poor indices of fit for the model. Key factors influencing mental health literacy were knowledge life experience with mental health (teacher candidates) and clinical experience with mental health during program placements (for nursing students). Although both cohorts had positive attitudes and beliefs towards supporting mental health, both indicated a lack of self-efficacy in putting that support into practice. Regarding personal mental health, the stresses of school, life, and professional practice demonstrate the importance of self care and of supporting the mental health of the teacher candidates and nursing students in addition to providing them with the training and education to support others. The pandemic highlighted the critical role that both professions play in supporting the mental health of those they encounter in their professional practice.
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