Objective: Mexican Americans have low rates of service utilization for mental health problems. This study examined the use of health services by persons who have symptoms of mental distress that they say impair their ability to function.
Methods: A stratified field survey was conducted in central California to select a probabilistic sample of persons of Mexican origin. A multinomial logistic regression was used for the analysis.
Results: Among respondents who reported functional impairments attributable to their symptoms, 58 percent met diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder. Of that group, 69 percent did not use any health services. Respondents who sought medical services for mental health symptoms were more likely to be women and to meet diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder. Respondents who sought mental health services for their symptoms were more likely to be female, to be unmarried, and to have had 12 or more years of education. Health insurance status was not associated with type of service used.
Conclusions: Even among Mexican Americans who met diagnostic criteria for a mental illness, most did not use services of any sort, and many of those who sought treatment for their symptoms turned to medical and informal services.