This study examined the relationship between internalized and public stigma on treatment-related attitudes and behaviors in a community sample of 449 African American and white adults aged 18 years and older. Telephone surveys were administered to assess level of depressive symptoms, demographic characteristics, stigma, and treatment-related attitudes and behaviors. Multiple regression analysis indicated that internalized stigma mediated the relationship between public stigma and attitudes toward mental health treatment. Within group analyses indicated that the mediating effect of internalized stigma was significant for whites only. Among African Americans, internalized stigma did not mediate public stigma; it was directly related to attitudes toward mental health treatment. The internalization of stigma is key in the development of negative attitudes toward mental health treatment, and future research should focus on this aspect of stigma in both individual and community-based efforts to reduce stigma.
Mental health illnesses, such as depression, are responsible for a growing disease burden worldwide. Unfortunately, effective treatment is often impeded by stigmatizing attitudes of other individuals, which have been found to lead to a number of negative consequences including reduced help-seeking behavior and increased social distance. Despite the high prevalence of depression in Canada, little research has been conducted to examine stigma against depression in the Canadian general population. Such information is crucial to understanding the current state of stigmatizing attitudes in the Canadian communities, and framing future stigma reduction initiatives. The objectives of this study were to estimate the percentages of various stigmatizing attitudes toward depression in a general population sample and to compare the percentages by demographics and socioeconomic characteristics.
We conducted a cross-sectional telephone survey in Alberta, Canada, between February and June 2006. Random digit dialing was used to recruit participants who were aged 18-74 years old (n = 3047). Participants were presented a case vignette describing a depressed individual, and responded to a 9-item Personal Stigma questionnaire. The percentages of stigmatizing attitudes were estimated and compared by demographic and socioeconomic variables.
Among the participants, 45.9% endorsed that depressed individuals were unpredictable and 21.9% held the view that people with depression were dangerous. Significant differences in stigmatizing attitudes were found by gender, age, education, and immigration status. A greater proportion of men than women held stigmatizing views on each stigma item. No consistent trend emerged by age in stigma against depression. Participants with higher levels of education reported less stigmatizing attitudes than those with less education. Participants who were not born in Canada were more likely to hold stigmatizing attitudes than those who were born in Canada.
In the general population, stigmatizing attitudes towards depression differ by demographic characteristics. Men, those with less education and immigrants should be the targets of stigma reduction campaigns.
This study examined the effectiveness of an intervention to reduce explicit and implicit stigma-relevant attitudes toward mental illness and treatment-seeking and behavioural indicators of willingness to seek treatment.
Adolescents were randomly assigned to the experimental (education about mental illness and treatment involving psychoeducation and contact (via DVD) with an affected individual) or control intervention (education about tobacco).
Findings suggest the stigma intervention was effective at reducing explicit but not implicit stigma-relevant attitudes. As hypothesized, participants receiving the experimental intervention reported less explicit stigma toward treatment and greater openness to personally seek treatment if they had also reported prior mental health treatment.
Conclusions and Implications
These findings support the potential for a brief educational intervention among adolescents to reduce negative attitudes toward mental health treatment, but raise questions about how to effectively address implicit stigma as well as the importance of translating stigma reduction into behavior changes.
stigma; mental illness; treatment-seeking; implicit and explicit attitudes
Depression among older adults is a major public health concern leading to increased disability and mortality. Less than 3% of older adults utilize professional mental health services for the treatment of depression, less than any other adult age group. And despite similar rates of depression, African Americans are significantly less likely to seek, engage and be retained in professional mental health services than their white counterparts. Cultural differences in the way depression symptoms are manifested, defined, interpreted and labeled may in part explain some of these racial differences in help-seeking behaviors. Focus group methodology was utilized to identify and explore attitudes and beliefs about depression and mental health treatment utilization among 42 older African Americans who had recently suffered a major depressive episode. Thematic analysis of identified six overarching themes: (a) perceptions of depression, (b) the African American experience, (c) seeking treatment as a last resort, (d) myths about treatment, (e) stigma associated with seeking treatment and (f) culturally appropriate coping strategies. We discuss implications for practice, education and research.
Aging; Depression; Stigma; Treatment
There are few national or cross-cultural studies of the stigma associated with mental disorders. Australia and Japan have different systems of psychiatric health care, and distinct differences in cultural values, but enjoy similar standards of living. This study seeks to compare the nature and extent of stigma among the public in the two countries.
A household survey of the public was conducted in each country using similar methodologies. The Australian study comprised a national survey of 3998 adults aged over 18 years. The Japanese survey involved 2000 adults aged 20 to 69 from 25 regional sites distributed across the country. Interviewees reported their personal attitudes (personal stigma, social distance) and perceptions of the attitudes of others (perceived stigma, perceived discrimination) in the community with respect to four case vignettes. These vignettes described a person with: depression; depression with suicidal ideation; early schizophrenia; and chronic schizophrenia.
Personal stigma and social distance were typically greater among the Japanese than the Australian public whereas the reverse was true with respect to the perception of the attitudes and discriminatory behaviour of others. In both countries, personal stigma was significantly greater than perceived stigma. The public in both countries showed evidence of greater social distance, greater personal stigma and greater perceived stigma for schizophrenia (particularly in its chronic form) than for depression. There was little evidence of a difference in stigma for depression with and without suicide for either country. However, social distance was greater for chronic compared to early schizophrenia for the Australian public.
Stigmatising attitudes were common in both countries, but negative attitudes were greater among the Japanese than the Australian public. The results suggest that there is a need to implement national public awareness interventions tailored to the needs of each country. The current results provide a baseline for future tracking of national stigma levels in each country.
Previous studies have shown that attitudes towards depression may be influenced by country-specific social and cultural factors. A survey was carried out to collect beliefs on and attitudes toward depression in Italy, which has an established community-based mental health system.
A telephone survey was carried out in a probabilistic sample aged ≥15 years. A 20-item questionnaire was administered to explore knowledge of depression, stigma, causal beliefs, treatment preference, and help-seeking attitudes.
Of the 1001 participants, 98% were aware of depression, and 62% had experienced it, either directly or indirectly. A widespread belief (75%) was that people suffering from depression should avoid talking about their problem. A minority of the sample viewed depression as a condition that should be managed without recourse to external help or a “socially dangerous” illness. Among perceived causes of depression, most respondents mentioned life stressors or physical strains. Psychologists were often indicated as an adequate source of professional help. Half of the sample believed that depression should be pharmacologically treated, but drugs were often seen as addictive. Referring to a primary care physician (PCP) was considered embarrassing; furthermore, many people thought that PCPs are too busy to treat patients suffering from depression.
Our findings indicate that depression is seen as a reaction to significant life events that should be overcome with the support of significant others or the help of health professionals (mainly psychologists). However, there are still barriers to the disclosure of depressive symptoms to PCPs, and concerns about the addictive effect of antidepressants. In the presence of a gap between people’s beliefs and what health professionals consider appropriate for the treatment of depression, a “shared decision making” approach to treatment selection should be adopted taking into account the patients’ preference for psychological interventions to ensure active compliance with effective treatments.
Stigma is pervasive among families of individuals with psychotic disorders and includes both general and ‘associative’ stigma – that is, the process by which a person is stigmatized by virtue of association with another stigmatized individual. These forms of stigma may present a barrier to help seeking. However, little is known about stigma in the early stages of evolving psychotic disorder.
Family members of 11 individuals at clinical high risk and of nine patients with recent-onset psychosis were evaluated for generalized and associative stigma using the Opinions about Mental Illness (modified) and the Family Experiences Interview Schedule.
In this small study, the level of stigma was low, as families endorsed many supportive statements, for example, patients should be encouraged to vote, patients want to work, mental illness should be protected legally as a disability and parity should exist in insurance coverage. Families also endorsed that both talking and a belief in God and prayer can help someone get better. Only ethnic minority families of individuals with recent-onset psychosis endorsed a sense of shame and need to conceal the patient's illness.
This preliminary study suggests that family stigma is low in the early stages of psychotic disorder, a finding that requires further investigation in a larger and more representative sample. This may be an opportune time to engage young people and families, so as to reduce duration of untreated illness. Ethnic differences in stigma, if replicated, highlight the need for cultural sensitivity in engaging individuals and their families in treatment.
ethnicity; families; prodrome; psychosis; stigma
In-depth and structured evaluation of the stigma associated with depression has been lacking. This study aimed to inform the design of interventions to reduce stigma by systematically investigating community perceptions of beliefs about depression according to theorised dimensional components of stigma.
Focus group discussions were held with a total of 23 adults with personal experience of depression. The discussions were taped, transcribed and thematically analysed.
Participants typically reported experiencing considerable stigma, particularly that others believe depressed people are responsible for their own condition, are undesirable to be around, and may be a threat. Participants expressed particular concerns about help-seeking in the workplace and from mental health professionals.
Findings indicate that interventions to reduce the stigma of depression should target attributions of blame; reduce avoidance of depressed people; label depression as a 'health condition' rather than 'mental illness'; and improve responses of help-sources (i.e. via informing professionals of client fears).
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a frequently diagnosed disorder in child- and adulthood with a high impact affecting multiple facets of social life. Therefore, patients suffering from ADHD are at high risk to be confronted with stigma, prejudices, and discrimination. A review of the empirical research in the field of ADHD with regard to stigma was performed. The findings of investigations in this field were clustered in different categories, including stigma in children with ADHD, stigma in adults with ADHD, stigma in relatives or in people close to a patient with ADHD, and the influence of stigma on authorities’ attitudes toward patients with ADHD. Variables identified to contribute to stigma in ADHD are public’s uncertainty concerning the reliability/validity of an ADHD diagnosis and the related diagnostic assessment, public’s perceived dangerousness of individuals with ADHD, socio-demographical factors as age, gender, and ethnicity of the respondent or the target individual with ADHD, stigmatization of ADHD treatment, for example public’s skepticism toward ADHD medication and disclosure of diagnostic status as well as medication status of the individual with ADHD. The contribution of stigma associated with ADHD can be conceptualized as an underestimated risk factor, affecting treatment adherence, treatment efficacy, symptom aggravation, life satisfaction, and mentally well-being of individuals affected by ADHD. Public as well as health professionals’ concepts about ADHD are highly diverse, setting individuals with an ADHD diagnosis at greater risk to get stigmatized.
Stigma; Stigmatization; Attitudes; ADHD; Children; Adults
HIV stigma is a contributing factor to poor patient outcomes. Although HIV stigma has been documented, its impact on patient well-being in the southern US is not well understood.
Thirty-two adults participated in cognitive interviews after completing the Berger HIV or the Van Rie stigma scale. Participant responses were probed to ensure the scales accurately measured stigma and to assess the impact stigma had on behavior.
Three main themes emerged regarding HIV stigma: (1) negative attitudes, fear of contagion, and misperceptions about transmission; (2) acts of discrimination by families, friends, health care providers, and within the workplace; and (3) participants’ use of self-isolation as a coping mechanism. Overwhelming reluctance to disclose a person’s HIV status made identifying enacted stigma with a quantitative scale difficult.
Fear of discrimination resulted in participants isolating themselves from friends or experiences to avoid disclosure. Participant unwillingness to disclose their HIV status to friends and family could lead to an underestimation of enacted HIV stigma in quantitative scales.
People with mental illness have long experienced prejudice and discrimination. Researchers have been able to study this phenomenon as stigma and have begun to examine ways of reducing this stigma. Public stigma is the most prominent form observed and studied, as it represents the prejudice and discrimination directed at a group by the larger population. Self-stigma occurs when people internalize these public attitudes and suffer numerous negative consequences as a result. In this article, we more fully define the concept of self-stigma and describe the negative consequences of self-stigma for people with mental illness. We also examine the advantages and disadvantages of disclosure in reducing the impact of stigma. In addition, we argue that a key to challenging self-stigma is to promote personal empowerment. Lastly, we discuss individual and societal level methods for reducing self-stigma, programs led by peers as well as those led by social service providers.
Self-stigma; stigma reduction; mental illness; empowerment
Despite the benefits of treatment for late-life depression, we are faced with the challenges of underutilization of mental health services by older adults and non-adherence to offered interventions. This paper describes psychosocial and interactional barriers and facilitators of treatment engagement among depressed older adults served by community health care settings. We describe the need to engage older adults in treatment using interventions that: 1. target psychological barriers such as stigma and other negative beliefs about depression and its treatment; and 2. increase individuals’ involvement in the treatment decision-making process. We then present personalized treatment engagement interventions that our group has designed for a variety of community settings.
depression; geriatric; treatment engagement; adherence; community settings
Health care professionals use diagnostic labels to classify individuals for both treatment and research purposes. Despite their clear benefits, diagnostic labels also serve as cues that activate stigma and stereotypes. Stigma associated with the diagnostic labels of dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can have a significant and negative impact on interpersonal relationships, interactions with the health care community, attitudes about service utilization, and participation in clinical research. The impact of stigma also extends to the family caregivers of individuals bearing such labels. In this article, we use examples from our investigations of individuals with dementia or MCI and their family caregivers to examine the impact of labeling and stigma on clinical research participation. We also discuss how stigma can affect numerous aspects of the nursing research process. Strategies are presented for addressing stigma-related barriers to participation in clinical research on dementia and MCI.
There are significant economic and psychological costs associated with the negative weight-based social stigma that exists in American society. This pervasive anti-fat bias has been strongly internalized among the overweight/obese. While the etiology of weight stigma is complex, research suggests that it is often greater among individuals who embrace certain etiological views of obesity or ideological views of the world. This investigation examined 1) the level of internalized weight stigma among overweight/obese treatment seeking adults, and 2) the association between internalized weight stigma and perceived weight controllability and ideological beliefs about the world (‘just world beliefs’, Protestant work ethic). Forty-six overweight or obese adults (BMI ≥27 kg/m2) participating in an 18- week behavioral weight loss program completed implicit (Implicit Associations Test) and explicit (Obese Person's Trait Survey) measures of weight stigma. Participants also completed two measures of ideological beliefs about the world (“Just World Beliefs”, Protestant Ethic Scale) and one measure of beliefs about weight controllability (Beliefs about Obese Persons). Significant implicit and explicit weight bias was observed. Greater weight stigma was consistently associated with greater endorsement of just world beliefs, Protestant ethic beliefs and beliefs about weight controllability. Results suggest that the overweight/obese treatment seeking adults have internalized the negative weight-based social stigma that exists in American society. Internalized weight stigma may be greater among those holding specific etiological and ideological beliefs about weight and the world.
Little is known about African American women's beliefs about mental illness. In this qualitative study we employed the Common Sense Model (CSM) to examine African American women's beliefs about mental illness, coping behaviors, barriers to treatment seeking, and variations in beliefs, coping, and barriers associated with aging. Fifteen community-dwelling African American women participated in individual interviews. Dimensional analysis, guided by the CSM, showed that participants believed general, culturally specific, and age-related factors can cause mental illness. They believed mental illness is chronic, with negative health outcomes. Participants endorsed the use of prayer and counseling as coping strategies, but were ambivalent about the use of medications. Treatment-seeking barriers included poor access to care, stigma, and lack of awareness of mental illness. Few age differences were found in beliefs, coping behaviors, and barriers. Practice and research implications are discussed.
African Americans; coping and adaptation; dimensional analysis; mental health and illness; stigma; women's health
Many veterans return from combat experiencing a variety of mental health concerns. Previous research has documented a stigma associated with seeking treatment that interferes with the decision to seek treatment. This study, conceptualized using the theory of planned behavior, assessed beliefs about mental health treatment in order to understand mental health treatment seeking behavior among a group of returning National Guard soldiers who served in the war in Iraq.
Participants were one hundred and fifty Operation Iraqi Freedom National Guard soldiers who screened positive for depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder or alcohol abuse disorder on the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI). Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire assessing beliefs about mental health treatment and treatment-seeking behavior.
Beliefs related to symptom reduction and work were significantly related to mental health treatment-seeking behavior.
Interventions developed to engage veterans into care must be directed toward cognitive factors that motivate treatment seeking in addition to traditionally targeted structural barriers.
treatment-seeking behavior; mental health
Urban women with severe mental illness (SMI) are vulnerable to stigma and discrimination related to mental illness and other stigmatized labels. Stigma experiences may increase their risk for negative health outcomes, such as HIV infection. This study tests the relationship between perceived stigma and HIV risk behaviors among women with SMI. The authors interviewed 92 women attending community mental health programs using the Stigma of Psychiatric Illness and Sexuality Among Women Questionnaire. There were significant relationships between personal experiences of mental illness and substance use accompanying sexual intercourse; perceived ethnic stigma and having a riskier partner type; and experiences of discrimination and having a casual or sex-exchange partner. Higher scores on relationship stigma were associated with a greater number of sexual risk behaviors. The findings underscore the importance of exploring how stigma attached to mental illness intersects with other stigmatized labels to produce unique configurations of HIV risk. HIV risk reduction interventions and prevention research should integrate attention to stigmatized identities in the lives of women with SMI.
women; severe mental illness; stigma; HIV sexual risk
Given the increasing evidence that older ethnic minorities underuse mental health services, the present study assessed determinants of attitudes toward mental health services with a sample of older Korean Americans (N = 472). Adapting Andersen’s behavioral health model, predisposing factors (age, sex, marital status, education, length of residence in the United States), mental health needs (anxiety, suicidal ideation, depressive symptoms), and enabling factors (personal experiences and beliefs) were considered as potential predictors. Shorter residence in the United States and higher levels of depressive symptoms were associated with more-negative attitudes toward mental health services. Culture-influenced personal beliefs (knowledge about mental illness and stigmatism) were found to play a substantial role in shaping individuals’ attitudes toward mental health services. Findings call attention to the need to investigate how culture influences the response to mental health needs and to develop community education and outreach programs to close the gaps between mental health needs and service utilization in older ethnic minority populations.
mental health; service utilization; Korean American; older adults
We examined African American women's representations/beliefs about mental illness, preferred coping behaviors if faced with mental illness, whether perceived stigma was associated with treatment-seeking, and if so, whether it was related to beliefs and coping preference, and whether these variables differed by age group. Participants were 185 community-dwelling African American women 25 to 85 years of age. Results indicated the women believed that mental illness is caused by several factors, including family-related stress and social stress due to racism, is cyclical, and has serious consequences but can be controlled by treatment. Participants endorsed low perceptions of stigma. Major preferred coping strategies included praying and seeking medical and mental health care. Age differences were found in all variables except stigma.
African American women; beliefs about mental illness; attitudes about mental illness; stigma; coping behaviors
HIV is a stigmatizing medical condition. The concept of HIV stigma is multifaceted, with personalized stigma (perceived stigmatizing consequences of others knowing of their HIV status), disclosure concerns, negative self-image, and concerns with public attitudes described as core aspects of stigma for individuals with HIV infection. There is limited research on HIV stigma in children. The aim of this study was to test a short version of the 40-item HIV Stigma Scale (HSS-40), adapted for 8–18 years old children with HIV infection living in Sweden.
A Swedish version of the HSS-40 was adapted for children by an expert panel and evaluated by think aloud interviews. A preliminary short version with twelve items covering the four dimensions of stigma in the HSS-40 was tested. The psychometric evaluation included inspection of missing values, principal component analysis (PCA), internal consistency, and correlations with measures of health-related quality of life (HRQoL).
Fifty-eight children, representing 71% of all children with HIV infection in Sweden meeting the inclusion criteria, completed the 12-item questionnaire. Four items concerning participants’ experiences of others’ reactions to their HIV had unacceptable rates of missing values and were therefore excluded. The remaining items constituted an 8-item scale, the HIV Stigma Scale for Children (HSSC-8), measuring HIV-related disclosure concerns, negative self-image, and concerns with public attitudes. Evidence for internal validity was supported by a PCA, suggesting a three factor solution with all items loading on the same subscales as in the original HSS-40. The scale demonstrated acceptable internal consistency, with exception for the disclosure concerns subscale. Evidence for external validity was supported in correlational analyses with measures of HRQoL, where higher levels of stigma correlated with poorer HRQoL.
The results suggest feasibility, reliability, as well as internal and external validity of the HSSC-8, an HIV stigma scale for children with HIV infection, measuring disclosure concerns, negative self-image, and concerns with public attitudes. The present study shows that different aspects of HIV stigma can be assessed among children with HIV in the age group 8–18.
HIV; Stigma; Child; Adolescent; Psychometrics; HIV Stigma Scale for Children
The stigma associated with HIV/AIDS poses a psychological challenge to people living with HIV/AIDS. We hypothesized that that the consequences of stigma-related stressors on psychological well-being would depend on how people cope with the stress of HIV/AIDS stigma. Two hundred participants with HIV/AIDS completed a self-report measure of enacted stigma and felt stigma, a measure of how they coped with HIV/AIDS stigma, and measures of depression and anxiety, and self-esteem. In general, increases in felt stigma (concerns with public attitudes, negative self-image, and disclosure concerns) coupled with how participants reported coping with stigma (by disengaging from or engaging with the stigma stressor) predicted self-reported depression, anxiety, and self-esteem. Increases in felt stigma were associated with increases in anxiety and depression among participants who reported relatively high levels of disengagement coping compared to participants who reported relatively low levels of disengagement coping. Increases in felt stigma were associated with decreased self-esteem, but this association was attenuated among participants who reported relatively high levels of engagement control coping. The data also suggested a trend that increases in enacted stigma predicted increases in anxiety, but not depression, among participants who reported using more disengagement coping. Mental health professionals working with people who are HIV positive should consider how their clients cope with HIV/AIDS stigma and consider tailoring current therapies to address the relationship between stigma, coping, and psychological well-being.
Coping; HIV/AIDS; stigma; self-esteem; depression
Although depression is one of the most common problems among adults in primary care settings, many do not seek or adhere to the treatment regimens suggested by their providers. Understanding the cultural model surrounding depression and its treatment in older adults might provide insight into the development of more effective strategies for addressing the problem in the clinical setting. In this study, the authors conducted semistructured interviews with adults over age 65. Personal responsibility for the management of depression emerged as a pervasive approach to dealing with depression. Older adults used orientational and movement metaphors to describe the process of moving out of depression. They viewed initiation and follow-through of this process as the sole responsibility of the depressed individual. This attitude might be rooted in the cultural experiences of this particular cohort of older adults and has implications for their use of physical and mental health services for depression.
depression; aged; cultural models
Many people with mental illness do not seek or delay seeking care. This study aimed to develop, and provide an initial validation of, a comprehensive measure for assessing barriers to access to mental health care including a ‘treatment stigma’ subscale, and to present preliminary evidence about the prevalence of barriers experienced by adults currently or recently using secondary mental health services in the UK.
The Barriers to Access to Care Evaluation scale (BACE) was developed from items in existing scales, systematic item reduction, and feedback from an expert group. It was completed in an online survey by 117 individuals aged 18 and over who had received care from secondary mental health services in the past 12 months. Internal consistency, test-retest reliability, convergent validity (correlation of treatment stigma subscale with the Stigma Scale for Receiving Psychological Help (SSRPH) and with the Internalised Stigma of Mental Illness Scale (ISMI)), respondent opinion and readability were assessed.
The BACE items were found to have acceptable test-retest reliability as all but one of the items exceeded the criterion for moderate agreement. The treatment stigma subscale had acceptable test-retest-reliability and good internal consistency. As hypothesised the subscale was significantly positively correlated with the SSRPH and the ISMI demonstrating convergent validity. The developmental process ensured content validity. Respondents gave the BACE a median rating of 8 on the 10-point quality scale. Readability scores indicated the measure can be understood by the average 11 to 12 year-old. The most highly endorsed barrier was ‘concern that it might harm my chances when applying for jobs’. The scale was finalised into a 30-item measure with a 12-item treatment stigma subscale.
There is preliminary evidence demonstrating the reliability, validity and acceptability of the BACE. It can be used to ascertain key barriers to access to mental health care which may help to identify potential interventions to increase care seeking and service use. Further research is needed to establish its factor analytic structure and population norms.
Measure; Barriers to care; Access; Health care seeking; Stigma; Psychometric
Poor mental health literacy and negative attitudes toward individuals with mental health disorders may impede optimal help-seeking for symptoms of mental ill-health. The present study examined the ability to recognize cases of depression as a function of respondent and target gender, as well as individual psychological differences in attitudes toward persons with depression.
In a representative British general population survey, the ability to correctly recognize vignettes of depression was assessed among 1,218 adults. Respondents also rated the vignettes along a number of attitudinal dimensions and completed measures of attitudes toward seeking psychological help, psychiatric skepticism, and anti-scientific attitudes.
There were significant differences in the ability to correctly identify cases of depression as a function of respondent and target gender. Respondents were more likely to indicate that a male vignette did not suffer from a mental health disorder compared to a female vignette, and women were more likely than men to indicate that the male vignette suffered from a mental health disorder. Attitudes toward persons with depression were associated with attitudes toward seeking psychological help, psychiatric skepticism, and anti-scientific attitudes.
Initiatives that consider the impact of gender stereotypes as well as individual differences may enhance mental health literacy, which in turn is associated with improved help-seeking behaviors for symptoms of mental ill-health.
Older adults are particularly vulnerable to the effects of depression, however, they are less likely to seek and engage in mental health treatment. African-American older adults are even less likely than their White counterparts to seek and engage in mental health treatment. This qualitative study examined the experience of being depressed among African-American elders and their perceptions of barriers confronted when contemplating seeking mental health services. In addition, we examined how coping strategies are utilized by African-American elders who choose not to seek professional mental health services.
A total of 37 interviews were conducted with African-American elders endorsing at least mild symptoms of depression. Interviews were audiotaped and subsequently transcribed. Content analysis was utilized to analyze the qualitative data.
Thematic analysis of the interviews with African-American older adults is presented within three areas: (1) Beliefs about Depression Among Older African-Americans: (2) Barriers to Seeking Treatment for Older African-Americans: and (3) Cultural Coping Strategies for Depressed African-American Older Adults.
Older African-Americans in this study identified a number of experiences living in the Black community that impacted their treatment seeking attitudes and behaviors. which led to identification and utilization of more culturally endorsed coping strategies to deal with their depression. Findings from this study provide a greater understanding of the stigma associated with having a mental illness and its influence on attitudes toward mental health services.
depression; beliefs/attitudes; health service use; stigma; aging