“We Don't Want to be Judged”: Perceptions about Professional Help and Attitudes Towards Help-Seeking among Pregnant and Postpartum Mexican-American Adolescents

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Purpose:The purpose of this qualitative study is to understand how depression is recognized, as well as perceptions of professional help and attitudes concerning perinatal depression among pregnant and postpartum (perinatal) Mexican-American adolescents.Design and Methods:This qualitative descriptive study used deductive and inductive content analysis to analyze data. Categories and subcategories describing the mental health literacy of perinatal Mexican-American adolescents concerning perinatal depression are presented. A convenience sample of 20 perinatal Mexican-American adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 years were interviewed. Participants were recruited from parenting classes across urban high-schools in Southwestern United States.Results:Adolescents expressed difficulties in recognizing perinatal depression. Depressive symptoms were identified through self-appraisals or the appraisal of others. Establishing rapport with empathetic health care providers facilitated trust among adolescents. Fear of judgement was the most common response and prevented help-seeking. Lack of trust, normalization of depression, and reluctance with disclosing symptoms were also indicated by participants.Conclusions:Stigma concerning perinatal depression was identified as a barrier for help-seeking among participants who were already experiencing criticism due to their pregnancy status. The quality of interactions with health providers may hinder or facilitate adolescents from professional help-seeking.Practice Implications:Active engagement and collaboration with Mexican-American adolescents are indicated in identification and treatment of perinatal depression. Integration of mental health services in primary care settings is suggested to facilitate help-seeking for perinatal depression. Mental Health First Aid may be utilized to improve knowledge and decrease stigma concerning perinatal depression among Mexican-American adolescents.Highlights:Perinatal adolescents often have difficulties differentiating between normal perinatal symptoms versus depressive symptomsStigma surrounding adolescent pregnancy and depression may discourage adolescents from disclosing depressive symptomsScreening can promote discussions about mental health, resulting in early detection and management of perinatal depressionEducation about perinatal depression is indicated as adolescents are often unfamiliar with treatment optionsIntegration of mental health services in primary care settings is indicated to facilitate help-seeking among adolescents

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