The purpose of this study is to inform the development of an open-ended and verbally administered Mental Health Literacy (MHL) scale and a model for children aged 8–12. There are no established MHL frameworks for children this age. There is also a paucity of scales that measure MHL learning in an inclusive manner which often are implemented in written format only. Therefore, this paper will explore: (1) experts opinions on children’s MHL needs, and (2) obtain expert consensus regarding a pool of items to measure children’s MHL and (3) establish a new MHL child focused model. Experts in the study were psychologists, teachers, and researchers/academics who have experience working with children.
A Delphi method was employed. Thirty-five experts responded to three rounds of online surveys (overall retention rate: 87.5%). Round 1 was qualitative and analysed for themes that encompassed children’s MHL that informed the preliminary pool of items rated by experts in round 2 and 3. Round 2 and 3 were quantitative ratings of the newly developed scale items, with the option for experts to provide qualitative feedback regarding the individual items.
The findings identified six main themes and several sub-themes that encompass children’s MHL needs that have informed a new MHL child focused model. In total, consensus from the experts was reached on 110 out of 117 scale items. After final review of all items, 95 knowledge related items remain.
The findings have developed a new model of MHL for children in the general population, as well as items to develop a verbally administered MHL scale to be used with children aged 8–12. This study advocates that mental health information is important and should be delivered to school-aged children in a manner that is accessible to all children, including children with limited literacy abilities.