Use of Professional and Informal Support by African Americans and Caribbean Blacks With Mental Disorders


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Abstract

ObjectivesThis study investigated the use of professional services and informal support among African Americans and Caribbean blacks with a lifetime mood, anxiety, or substance use disorder.MethodsData were from the National Survey of American Life. Multinomial logistic regression was used to test the utilization of professional services only, informal support only, both, or neither. Analyses controlled for sociodemographic characteristics, disorder-related variables, and family network variables.ResultsThe analytic sample included 1,096 African Americans and 372 Caribbean blacks. Forty-one percent used both professional services and informal support, 14% relied on professional services only, 23% used informal support only, and 22% did not seek help. There were no significant differences in help seeking between African Americans and Caribbean blacks. Having co-occurring mental and substance use disorders, having a severe disorder in the past 12 months, having more people in the informal helper network, and being female increased the likelihood of using professional services and informal supports. When men sought help, they were more likely to rely on informal helpers. Marital status, age, and socioeconomic status were also significantly related to help seeking.ConclusionsThe significant proportion of black Americans with a mental disorder who relied on informal support alone, professional services alone, or no help at all suggests potential unmet need in this group. However, the reliance on informal support also may be evidence of a strong protective role that informal networks play in the lives of African Americans and Caribbean blacks. (Psychiatric Services 59:1292–1298, 2008)

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