Health literacy

What is health literacy, and how does it affect health?

Health literacy is how well a person can obtain, process, and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions.

Health literacy has direct and indirect links with:

  • health outcomes,
  • health care costs,
  • engagement with services, and
  • overall well-being.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care 2015 state that 60 percent of Australians have low individual health literacy. 

What is mental health literacy?

Mental health literacy helps people to know how to identify when they are experiencing mental health concerns and what causes these experiences. It empowers them to work both with and independently of services to improve their health. Mental Health literacy can also promote seeking help and accessing health services early.

Take these simple steps below to take charge of your or your family's healthcare when you see a health professional:

  1. Ask Questions. Take a list of questions to your appointment. You may want to use the Question Builder tool to help you prepare.
  2. Ask for an interpreter if you need one.
  3. Listen and Repeat. Listen to instructions from your health care provider and repeat back.
  4. If you want to, you can bring a carer, support person or peer worker to come with you to the appointment.

Booking and attending medical appointments can be challenging for various reasons. Take a look at the guide for booking and attending medical appointment to understand how the process works, what a medical service can help you with, and what you can ask from them.

It can be frustrating to find out that you may have to wait before you can see a specialist mental health professional. Use the ‘Making your time count’ resource to develop a plan to make the most of your time while you wait.

To find local mental health services that are right for you, go to Headstart.

To find online mental health resources and services, go to Head to Health .