OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to develop scales to assess mental health literacy relating to affective disorders, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia/psychosis. METHOD: Scales were created to assess mental health literacy in relation to depression, depression with suicidal thoughts, early schizophrenia, chronic schizophrenia, social phobia and post-traumatic stress disorder using data from a survey of 1536 health professionals (general practitioners, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists), assessing recognition of these disorders and beliefs about the helpfulness of interventions. This was done by using the consensus of experts about the helpfulness and harmfulness of treatments for each disorder as a criterion. Data from a general population survey of 6019 Australians aged ≥ 15 was used to examine associations between scale scores, exposure to mental disorders and sociodemographic variables, to assess scale validity. RESULTS: Those with a close friend or family member with a mental disorder had significantly higher mean scores on all mental health literacy scales, providing support for scale validity. Personal experience of the problem and working with people with a similar problem was linked to higher scores on some scales. Male sex, a lower level of education and age > 60 were linked to lower levels of mental health literacy. Higher scores were also linked to a greater belief that people with mental disorders are sick rather than weak. CONCLUSIONS: The scales developed in this study allow for the assessment of mental health literacy in relation to depression, depression with suicidal thoughts, early schizophrenia, chronic schizophrenia, social phobia and PTSD. Those with exposure to mental disorders had higher scores on the scales, and analyses of the links between scale scores and sociodemographic variables of age, gender and level of education were in line with those seen in other studies, providing support for scale validity.