This study was an exploratory investigation of the perceptions of mental disorder held by a sample of respondents resident in a rural community in Ireland (n=53). The vignette method, in combination with qualitative methods of data collection and analysis, was used to explore the structure and determinants of implicit beliefs concerning the interpretation, explanation and treatment of a range of psychological problems. The influence of the type of symptomatology depicted in the vignettes, the portrayal of the vignette actor as male or female, the demographic characteristics and prior psychiatric contact of respondents were also investigated. The results demonstrated the richness and complexity of lay beliefs in this area and suggest that lay beliefs have a complex structure and resemble formal models of mental disorder in their content. The findings also indicated that different types of mental disorder occasion different responses and that rather than subscribing to one dominant model of mental disorder, respondents differentiated their responses depending on the nature of the problem being considered.