Mental health treatment-seeking behaviors of African American women in the Southern United States

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University of Alabama Libraries

The purpose of this project was to investigate relationships between religious orientation, stigma regarding mental disorders, and treatment-seeking for mental disorders among African American women in the Southeastern U.S. I hypothesized that religious orientation would be negatively associated with the likelihood that African American women would seek treatment for mental health problems, while controlling for income and other covariates. To test this hypothesis I conducted interviews with 44 women who have health insurance and whose ethnic identity is African American. Data generated from interview questions about religious beliefs and activity, opinions about mental disorders and mental health care and attitudes of stigma toward mental health problems were used to test the hypothesis. The hypothesis was not supported. However, it was found that the women in the sample were disproportionately depressed, compared to the general population, but were less likely to seek treatment for mild or moderate symptoms. A substantial portion of the sample relied heavily on religious activities such as prayer to cope with depressive symptoms. The results of the analysis indicate that there are unmet mental health needs for African American women, but these needs are largely unrecognized by the women themselves, who appear to have a higher threshold of tolerance for dysphoric emotions relative to women in other ethnic groups. Members of this group may opt not to seek treatment until symptoms are extremely severe and debilitating.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Anthropology, Medical and Forensic, Cultural anthropology