Family Influences on the Use of Mental Health Services among African Americans

Family history of mental health disorders impacts utilization of mental health services among African-Americans, according to a study published in the June issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Alice P. Villatoro and Carol S. Aneshensel, PhD, from the University of California in Los Angeles examined the impact of families on mental health service utilization among African-Americans. They drew on the concept of family ambivalence that includes family support and stress. Utilization of mental health services was placed in the context of family histories of psychiatric disorder and treatment. Data were collected from the 2001 to 2003 National Survey of American Life for 3,149 African-American adults, including 605 respondents with a disorder.

The researchers found that family social support had no effect, while negative family interactions had an indirect positive effect on use of any mental health service through need for care. Poor self-rated mental health correlated with greater use of any and specialty mental health services, given a family history of no disorder or treated disorder. With a family history of untreated disorder, utilization was low, regardless of self-rated mental health.

“The process of seeking help for mental health problems isn’t just done by an individual,” Villatoro said in a statement. “It’s a very social process, and families can be an important resource for individuals trying to access help.”

Population of focus: African American Teens

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Date: 2014

Journal: Journal of Health and Social Behavior