Publication Date

2019-08-06

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2019-08-06

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2018-05-31

First Committee Member

Amy Weisman de Mamani

Second Committee Member

Saneya H. Tawfik

Third Committee Member

Franklin H. Foote

Fourth Committee Member

Laura Kohn-Wood

Fifth Committee Member

Anabel Bejarano

Abstract

Research indicates grave underutilization of mental health services among racial/ethnic minorities (REM) as compared to their Caucasian counterparts (SAMHSA, 2012; U.S Department of Health and Human Services, 2001). The current study is aimed at examining reasons that might explain why REMs are less likely to seek mental health services when in need. Some research indicates that internalized mental health stigma and greater experiences of racial/ethnic discrimination may decrease the likelihood that REMs seek professional psychological help. However, little attention has been paid to the study of help-seeking in multicultural individuals, or those who, from birth, belong to more than one minority ethnic/racial group. It is possible that multicultural individuals may be at even greater risk of failure to seek professional help than bicultural REMs, due to competing minority ethnic identities and cultural beliefs/values, which may be at odds with help-seeking behavior. Furthermore, the current literature has yet to consider the moderating role of cultural variables (family cohesion, acculturation/enculturation, multicultural identity), nor the potential impact of specific symptom clusters (depression, anxiety, subclinical psychosis, obsessive-compulsive traits) on help-seeking attitudes. Using multiple regression analyses, ANCOVAs, and path analysis with a non-clinical sample of 494 college students, the current study tested several hypotheses. In line with hypotheses, results indicated that greater perceived discrimination was associated with poorer help-seeking attitudes. Further, findings demonstrated that this relationship was weakened for individual who reported greater levels of enculturation, and strengthened for individuals who reported greater levels of subclinical psychosis. Contrary to expectations, greater internalized mental health stigma was related to more positive help-seeking attitudes. This relationship was moderated by ethnicity, such that stigma was significantly associated with help-seeking attitudes only for Caucasians, but not for REMs. Also contrary to expectations, the relationship between internalized mental health stigma and help-seeking attitudes decreased for individuals who reported greater likelihood to compartmentalize distinct cultural identities. Findings suggest that organized efforts to counteract racial discrimination could help to increase the likelihood that minorities will seek professional mental health services when needed. Interestingly, results also suggest that internalized stigma may improve help-seeking attitudes for Caucasians, and that increasing acculturation (e.g., pride and engagement in the culture of origin) may also help to improve the current underutilization of mental health services among REMs. Other study findings and implications will be discussed.

Keywords

help-seeking attitudes; internalized stigma; discrimination; race/ethnicity; biculturalism

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