African American Women's beliefs, coping behaviors, and barriers to seeking mental health services

Qual Health Res. 2009 Nov;19(11):1589-601. doi: 10.1177/1049732309350686.


Little is known about African American women's beliefs about mental illness. In this qualitative study we employed the Common Sense Model (CSM) to examine African American women's beliefs about mental illness, coping behaviors, barriers to treatment seeking, and variations in beliefs, coping, and barriers associated with aging. Fifteen community-dwelling African American women participated in individual interviews. Dimensional analysis, guided by the CSM, showed that participants believed general, culturally specific, and age-related factors can cause mental illness. They believed mental illness is chronic, with negative health outcomes. Participants endorsed the use of prayer and counseling as coping strategies, but were ambivalent about the use of medications. Treatment-seeking barriers included poor access to care, stigma, and lack of awareness of mental illness. Few age differences were found in beliefs, coping behaviors, and barriers. Practice and research implications are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / ethnology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*