A new study suggests old problems continue to limit mental health services for minority groups.
In the article, published in the journal Psychological Services, researchers determined that African-American young adults, especially those with higher levels of education, were significantly less likely to seek mental health services than their white counterparts.
“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 sociologist and study author Dr. Clifford L. Broman.
Stigma, lack of knowledge, trust and cultural understanding were key barriers to using mental health services, according to previous research with focus groups of blacks, Broman said.
The study examined two sets of data: one collected in 1994 and 1995 that consisted of 6,504 adolescents ages 13-18, and a second set collected in 2001, with 4,881 adults ages 18-26.
The data came from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, conducted by the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which used a nationally representative sample.
Researchers determined the desire to seek additional mental health care varied among whites and black. They discovered whites who had previously used mental health services were more likely to receive additional services, while the opposite was true for blacks.
The finding may be correlated to previous research that suggested blacks receive a lower quality of care when using mental health services. Earlier studies also discovered that blacks often 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.
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.
The role of depression and need for mental health services received special attention. 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.