Psychometric validation of the self-identification of having a mental illness (SELF-I) scale and the relationship with stigma and help-seeking among young people [2018]

Self-identification of having a mental illness has been shown to be an important factor underpinning help-seeking behaviour and may mediate the relationship between personal stigma and mental health service use. This study validates a new scale for the self-identification of having a mental illness among a non-clinical, community cohort of young people in the UK.

Following consultation with a group of young person experts with experience of mental health problems, we evaluated the psychometric properties of the self-identification of mental illness scale (SELF-I) among 423 young people aged 13–24 years who are part of an ongoing prospective community cohort. We performed test retest reliability among a subset of 53 participants. Psychometric validation for the scale used measures of Cronbach’s alpha and Pearson’s correlation coefficient. Item performance was assessed along and in relation with each covariate.

The SELF-I demonstrated robust psychometric properties including high test–retest reliability (0.95) and good internal consistency (0.87 as determined by the Cronbach’s alpha). The inter-total correlations for each item, which ranged from 0.62 to 0.74, supported keeping all items in the scale. Reporting greater psychiatric symptomatology via the SDQ (β: 0.82 95% confidence interval 0.40, 1.23), psychotic-like experiences (β: 0.37 95% confidence interval 0.14, 0.59), and use of mental health services (β: 0.92 95% confidence interval 0.71, 1.13) were associated with a greater self-perception as having a mental illness (p < 0.05), providing evidence of convergent validity. As expected, we found that less intended stigmatising behaviour was associated with greater self-perceptions of having a mental illness (B: 0.18, 95% CI 0.07, 0.28).

The SELF-I scale provides a method to gather insight into how young people, who may not identify as service users, perceive their own mental state and potential risk for developing a mental illness. This can be important for understanding perceived need for help and likelihood of using services among those with mental health problems.

Sara Evans-Lacko, Susanne Stolzenburg, Petra C. Gronholm, Wagner Ribeiro, Marianna York-Smith, Georg Schomerus
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, January 2019, Volume 54, Issue 1