Does stigma keep poor young immigrant and U.S.-born Black and Latina women from seeking mental health care?

Psychiatr Serv. 2007 Dec;58(12):1547-54. doi: 10.1176/ps.2007.58.12.1547.


Objective: This study examined the extent to which stigma-related concerns about mental health care account for the underuse of mental health services among low-income immigrant and U.S.-born black and Latina women.

Methods: Participants included 15,383 low-income women screened for depression in county entitlement services who were asked about barriers to care, stigma-related concerns, and whether they wanted or were getting mental health care.

Results: Among those who were depressed, compared with U.S.-born white women, each of the black groups were more likely to report stigma concerns (African immigrants, odds ratio [OR]=3.28, p=.004; Caribbean immigrants, OR=6.17, p=.005; U.S.-born blacks, OR=6.17, p=.06). Compared with U.S.-born white women, immigrant African women (OR=.18, p<.001), immigrant Caribbean women (OR=.11, p=.001), U.S.-born black women (OR=.31, p<.001), and U.S.-born Latinas (OR=.32, p=.03) were less likely to want treatment. Conversely, compared with U.S.-born white women, immigrant Latinas (OR=2.17, p=.02) were more likely to want treatment. There was a significant stigma-by-immigrant interaction predicting interest in treatment (p<.001). Stigma reduced the desire for mental health treatment for immigrant women with depression (OR=.35, p<.001) to a greater extent than it did for U.S.-born white women with depression (OR=.52, p=.24).

Conclusions: Stigma-related concerns are most common among immigrant women and may partly account for underutilization of mental health care services by disadvantaged women from ethnic minority groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Black or African American*
  • California
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Logistic Models
  • Mental Disorders / ethnology
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Poverty*
  • Stereotyping*