Investigating the Effect of Information Presentation Alternatives on Email Pervasiveness and on Awareness of, Attitudes Towards, and Willingness to Seek and Recommend Help for Mental Illness in South Africa
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This pilot study evaluates nine hypotheses regarding how to increase email engagement and improve attitudes towards and willingness to seek help for mental illness through 1838 responses to a manipulated digital survey conducted in June and July 2021. The results suggest that personal addressing and to some extent a loss-framed subject line increase both opens of and link clicks in emails used for mass communication. Showing each survey question individually improves survey completion. None of the manipulated variables affect attitudes towards mental illness, but framing “mental” as “health” decrease respondents’ willingness to seek and recommend professional help. Awareness of mental illnesses is correlated with willingness to seek and recommend help, but not with attitudes towards mental illnesses. Age is correlated with willingness to seek help and negatively correlated with awareness of attitudes towards mental illness. Women show higher levels of awareness of and more positive attitudes towards mental illness than men and a female vignette receive more positive attitudes than a male version from all genders. Finally, the order of the agreement options is found to positively affect respondents’ agreeance when ordered from agree to disagree. The study design is limited in terms of the representability of the respondent sample and the narrow focus on depression as the only mental illness, creating the need for future replications with more inclusive samples and additional mental illnesses.