Relationships Between Stigma, Depression, and Treatment in White and African American Primary Care Patients

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Although many depressed patients are treated in primary care, depression in these settings has been underdetected and undertreated, which may be influenced by mental health beliefs such as stigma. This study examined the relationships among depression, mental health stigma, and treatment in African American and white primary care patients. Data were collected at 3 primary care settings from 1103 patients who completed surveys measuring depression, stigma, and treatment use. Overall, African American patients reported greater mental health stigma than whites. African American women reported greater stigma than white women. White patients were found to be more likely to use depression treatment than African American patients. Multivariate analyses showed that greater depression severity fully mediated the relationship between stigma and treatment use, and that patients with the highest depression scores had significantly higher stigma scores as well. These results suggest that greater severity of depressive symptoms may override stigma and other beliefs about mental health in determining treatment use, but may be important to address for patients with more moderate levels of symptomatology.

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