School-based mental health literacy (MHL) programs can increase knowledge, reduce stigma, and encourage help-seeking behaviors in school-aged children. Yet, MHL intervention effects are inconsistent and unsustainable over time, and scholars have called for more theoretical work to address these limitations. The purpose of this theoretical review is to investigate how theory is utilized in MHL interventions, explore the interpersonal communication processes integrated in MHL interventions, and uncover the theoretical assumptions made in MHL interventions about interpersonal communication. We identified 27 articles for inclusion and utilized both content and interpretive analyses. Findings suggest that very few MHL interventions are based in theory; interpersonal communication is a central component within MHL programming; and numerous assumptions are made about interpersonal communication within MHL interventions that need to be addressed theoretically and empirically. Accordingly, we recommend that MHL intervention content and delivery practices are grounded in interpersonal communication theory related to disclosure and social support (seeking and provision). Additionally, teaching disclosure and social support skills may be a productive way for MHL interventions to help students build self-efficacy in communication about mental health for themselves and others.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)