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Black, educated Americans least likely to seek mental health services

Heather Rudow February 23, 2012

(Photo:Flickr/studiostoer)

A recently published study by the American Psychological Association revealed that young adult blacks with higher levels of education are significantly less likely to seek mental health services than whites of the same stature, citing stigma, lack of knowledge, trust and cultural understanding as key barriers.

“Past research has indicated people with higher education levels are more likely to seek out and receive mental health services. While that may be true for whites, it appears the opposite is true for young adult blacks,” said study author Clifford L. Broman.

Researchers analyzed two sets of data, one from 1994 and 1995 that consisted of 6,504 adolescents ages 13 to 18; and another from 2001, comprised of 4,881 adults ages 18 to 26:

“Contrary to previous research findings, the study revealed that the need for professional mental health services and not demographics may be the most important factor associated with whether a young adult of any race uses the services. While almost all previous research has found women use mental health services more often than men, the current study found no general differences between men and women in use of mental health services when the researchers controlled for depression, both clinically diagnosed and self-reported. Likewise, black young adults who had been diagnosed with depression were more than 20 times more likely to use mental health services than those without a diagnosis of depression.”

The results also found that, while whites who have used mental health services were more likely to receive additional services, they found the opposite results in the black community. The study notes that prior research suggests that blacks receive a lower quality of care when using mental health services and they report unpleasant experiences and unfavorable attitudes after receiving care.

“Practitioners need to address the concerns of black clients in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner, and during exit interviews, they should ask what is appropriate and what didn’t work,” Broman said.

Source: American Psychological Association

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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