Objective: Studies suggest that non-European immigrants to Canada tend to under use mental health services, compared with Canadian-born people. Social, cultural, religious, linguistic, geographic, and economic variables may contribute to this underuse. This paper explores the reasons for underuse of conventional mental health services in a community sample of immigrants with identified emotional and somatic symptoms.
Method: Fifteen West Indian immigrants in Montreal with somatic symptoms and (or) emotional distress, not currently using mental health services, participated in a face-to-face in-depth interview exploring health care use. Interviews were analyzed thematically to discern common factors explaining reluctance to use services.
Results: Across participants' narratives, we identified 3 significant factors explaining their reluctance to use mental health services. First, there was a perceived overwillingness of doctors to rely on pharmaceutical medications as interventions. Second, participants perceived a dismissive attitude and lack of time from physicians in previous encounters that deterred their use of current health service. Third, many participants reported a belief in the curative power of nonmedical interventions, most notably God and to a lesser extent, traditional folk medicine.
Conclusion: The above factors may highlight important areas for intervention to reduce disparities in immigrant use of mental health care. We present our framework as a model, grounded in empirical data, that further research can explore.