Methods: This constructivist grounded theory study used purposive and theoretical sampling to engage twelve Black mothers in a midwestern metropolitan area in in-depth interviews. The mothers were asked about their experiences with their mental health, and social supports for their mental health (e.g., informal, community, and formal supports). Additionally, the mothers were asked how social workers, and informal, community, and formal supports can better support them. This study used open, focused, and theoretical coding, the constant and comparative process, memo writing, and member checking to develop the substantive grounded theory (Charmaz, 2014). This author—a Black mother from the same community—created a research poem to disseminate the findings. The poem was created by bringing together short quotes from all of the participants to tell the story and highlight the recommendations the mothers shared. After the poem was drafted, feedback was sought and received from the participants. The feedback was used to enhance the structure and clarity of the poem and confirm that the poem well represented participants’ experiences.
Results: The findings illustrate how Black mothers describe their mental health, and how they access and use supports for their mental health. The analysis also revealed an emergent grounded theory process Black Mothers Making Choices about Mental Health Supports. The process includes: (1) experiencing changing circumstances (e.g., having a baby, increasing stress and symptoms), (2) assessing supports in light of needs, preferences, and past experiences, (3) weighing their options, and (4) making choices. In addition, the mothers shared recommendations for social workers, informal supports, community supports, and formal health and mental health services. The poem highlights these findings using the participants’ spoken words to radically center their voices and expertise.
Conclusions: This study’s findings provide social workers with new knowledge regarding experiences of poor mental health among Black mothers. The theory developed in this study illuminates the process Black mothers go through to make choices about mental health supports and it can be used to inform future research and develop racially relevant practice interventions. The research poem will be shared in this presentation, as a stand-alone creative tool to disseminate the findings, and to inspire critical self-reflection, brief dialogue, and action to enhance existing supports and build better supports with Black mothers.