Attitudes Towards Seeking Mental Health Treatment in the Postpartum Period in Israel: The Role of Religious Affiliation
Method: One thousand and fifty nine (1059) women were surveyed one to two days postpartum at a maternity department of a large hospital in Jerusalem, Israel, and were asked to define their religious affiliation (secular, traditional, orthodox or ultra-orthodox). In addition, they were assessed for attitudes towards seeking MH treatment using the Attitudes Towards Seeking Professional Psychological Help scale (ATSPPHS; Fischer and Turner, 1970).
Results: The MANOVA analysis showed that there was a statistically significant difference in attitudes towards seeking MH treatment between the religious groups (F = 17.901, p < .0005; Wilk's Λ = 0.808, partial η2= .069). Ultra-orthodox women had on average significantly lower recognition of need for MH treatment than orthodox and secular women (p= .018, p= .023, respectively), and significantly lower tolerance of stigma associated with MH treatment as compared to orthodox, traditional and secular women (all p< .0005). In addition, orthodox women had on average significantly lower tolerance of stigma associated with MH treatment than traditional and secular women (p= .004, p< .0005, respectively). Furthermore, ultra-orthodox women had on average significantly lower interpersonal openness regarding one’s emotional problems than orthodox women (p< .0005), and higher confidence in MH professionals than orthodox women (p< .0005).
Implications: This preliminary study highlights the important role religious affiliation has in shaping postpartum women’s attitudes towards seeking MH treatment. As this study showed, ultra-orthodox women had overall less favorable attitudes towards seeking MH treatment as compared to women from other religious groups. In addition, they had higher confidence in MH professionals compared to orthodox women, which may have been a result of a leading rabbi’s written agreement to the study and to treatment referrals. Based on these findings it is suggested that community interventions targeted at attitudes towards seeking MH treatment may help in working with women on changing such attitudes or in crafting interventions which are culturally suited for specific religious groups’ attitudes and needs. Implications for future research and for conducting research with difficult-to-study populations, such as the ultra-orthodox Jewish community, will be discussed.