Abstract: Examining the Attitudes and Stigma of Latinos Youths Engaging in Mental Health Services (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Examining the Attitudes and Stigma of Latinos Youths Engaging in Mental Health Services

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Treasury, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Robin Gearing, PhD, Associate Professor & Director, Center for Mental Health Research and Innovation in Treatment Engagement and Service (MH-RITES Center), University of Houston, TX
Kathryne Brewer, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of New Hampshire, Durham, Durham, NH
Luis Torres, PhD, Associate Professor; Associate Dean for Research & Strategic Partnerships, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Micki Washburn, PhD, Research Faculty, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Robin Gearing, MSW, PhD Student, University of Houston, TX
Background: Growing mental health services access disparities are an economic burden for the U.S., with direct and indirect costs exceeding $1.24 trillion. The U.S. invests millions of dollars annually to engage, develop, and disseminate evidence-based interventions for adolescent mental health disorders, yet poor access to treatment, stigma, and low engagement remain fundamental impediments to treatment effectiveness. While ethnic groups in the U.S. have comparable mental health prevalence rates, Latino youth access services at much lower rates. Approximately 38% of Caucasians with a mental illness receive mental health care services, vs. 22% of Latinos. Latinos are under-represented in mental health care settings, experience greater difficulty accessing services, and remaining engaged in treatment. In 2012, the number of Latinos in the U.S. was approximately 53 million, a 50% increase from 2000. Individual, family, and societal burdens resulting from poor Latino access to and engagement in mental health services will increase if under-utilization of services by Latinos continues.

This research examined the specific attitudes and perceptions of Latinos toward seeking mental health services, the implications of stigma, and the identification of barriers and promoters that hinder and facilitate Latino families’ ability to access and engage in mental health services

Methods: 487 Latinos were field recruited throughout Houston, Texas with the help of community gatekeepers to complete a survey of their attitudes toward mental health treatment and stigma. The survey included demographic questions and standardized measures, such as the Attitudes Toward Seeking Professional Psychological Help Scale and Stigma Concerns About Mental Health Care Scale. Participants received a $15 gift card for completing the survey. Analysis included basic demographics, t-tests, and regression modeling of attitudes toward help seeking.

Results: 68% of the sample were female, with an average age of 43.21 (SD: 0.74) years. Participants reported their country of origin as U.S. (16%), Mexico (56%); Central America (22%), South America (4%), and Caribbean (2%). 57% of participants reported knowing someone with a mental health problem (MHP), 37% knew a friend with a MHP, 30% had a family member with a MHP, and 10% reported experiencing a MHP. OLS regression was used to model the relationship between demographic characteristics and attitudes toward seeking profession psychological help, F(6,394)=9.47, p<0.001, R2=.126. Results indicated that emerging adults (18-25 years) reported less positive attitudes toward help seeking compared to those above age 25 (B=-2.92, S.E.=.58, t=-5.01, p<0.01); and foreign-born Latinos had more positive attitudes toward help seeking compared to U.S. born Latinos (B=1.70, S.E.=.57, t=2.97, p=0.003).

Conclusions and Implications: Given the connection to social work—increasingly the discipline most mental health services providers come from – findings inform and educate mental health practitioners to the unique understanding and perceptions of Latinos when accessing and engaging in treatment, and shed light on necessary elements for the cultural grounding of assessment and treatment interventions to increase Latino participation in services. Implications for improving access and engagement to mental health treatment for Latinos will be highlighted, and strategies for engaging this vulnerable and often hidden community in mental health services will be explored.