Schools are a primary location for youths’ mental health services and educators are critical in supporting youths’ mental health. They aid in the identification and referral of students in need of mental health services and are key players in implementing interventions. Nevertheless, educators often lack the education and training needed to support youths’ mental health. Mental health literacy (MHL) is one’s understanding of positive mental health, including an understanding of mental disorders and their treatments as well as decreased stigma and greater help-seeking efficacy (Kutcher et al., 2016). Improving educators’ mental health literacy (MHL) is increasingly recognized as a needed area of focus in improving systems’ responses to youths’ mental health needs, yet no current tools assess educators’ MHL. This study explored the initial psychometric properties associated with the development of the Educators’ MHL Scale.
Data were collected through an online survey from a convenience sample of 407 full-time K-12 teachers in the U.S. Measures included demographic questions, the Educators’ MHL Scale and theoretically linked constructs: perceived learning supports and teacher efficacy for classroom management. The analytic strategy included an exploratory factor analysis (EFA), reliability analysis via Cronbach’s alpha, and convergent validity analysis via zero-order correlations between the Educators’ MHL Scale and the aforementioned measures of its theoretically linked constructs.
The majority of the sample identified as women (80%) and white (75%). Other racial/ethnic identities represented were Hispanic/Latinx (9%), Black (8%), and Native American/Native Alaskan (4%). The EFA revealed four underlying factors with eigenvalues over 1.0, accounting for 56% of the variance. Cronbach’s alpha for the four retained factors were acceptable to high: promoting well-being (α = .87), recognizing potential problems (α =.82), understanding the link between well-being and school success (α =.72), and linking students to appropriate resources (α =.74). Evidence of convergent validity was indicated via significant, bivariate correlations between the Educators’ MHL scale and measures of its theoretically similar constructs: perceived learning supports (r = .40, p < .001) and teacher efficacy for classroom management (r = .54, p < .001).
Conclusion and Implications
Overall, results of psychometric testing indicate initial support for the reliability and factorial validity of the Educators’ MHL Scale. It is essential that educators are literate in mental health as they are gatekeepers for youth to receiving services in schools. This measurement tool is the first step in educators’ training and preparation to identify and respond to student mental health needs. Ultimately, increased understanding of educators’ mental health literacy will guide efforts to improve service access, reduce bias-based identification and referral, and promote positive mental health. Future research should include confirmatory factor analyses and tests for invariance. Additionally, research should explore how the scale correlates to other measures of MHL, such as vignette-based measures, and actual teacher behaviors.