Young adult blacks are less likely to seek mental health care than whites because of a persistent stigma and other factors, according to a new study.
Michigan State University researchers, reporting in the American Psychological Association journal Psychological Services, said they found the trend to be particularly pervasive among blacks with higher levels of education.
Stigma, lack of knowledge, trust and cultural understanding were key barriers to using mental health services, they said.
"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.
The new study examined two sets of information -- one collected in 1994 and 1995 involving 6,504 adolescents ages 13-18, and another gathered in 2001, from 4,881 adults ages 18-26. The data came from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The analysis found whites who have previously used mental health services were more likely to receive additional services, but the opposite was true for blacks. A possible explanation: Studies have shown blacks receive a lower quality of care when using mental health services and they report unpleasant experiences and unfavorable attitudes after receiving care, researchers noted.
"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.