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African Americans, beliefs, coping behaviors, mental illness



  1. Ward, Earlise C.
  2. Wiltshire, Jacqueline C.
  3. Detry, Michelle A.
  4. Brown, Roger L.


Background: Although research focused on African Americans with mental illness has been increasing, few researchers have addressed gender and age differences in beliefs, attitudes, and coping.


Objective: The aim of this study was to examine African Americans' beliefs about mental illness, attitudes toward seeking mental health services, and preferred coping behaviors and whether these variables differ by gender and age.


Methods: An exploratory, cross-sectional survey design was used. Participants were 272 community-dwelling African Americans aged 25-72 years. Data analysis included descriptive statistics and general linear regression models.


Results: Depression was the most common mental illness, and there were no gender differences in prevalence. Both men and women believed that they knew some of the symptoms and causal factors of mental illness. Their attitudes suggested they are not very open to acknowledging psychological problems, are very concerned about stigma associated with mental illness, and are somewhat open to seeking mental health services, but they prefer religious coping. Significant gender and age differences were evident in attitudes and preferred coping.


Discussion: Our findings have implications for gender- and age-specific psychoeducation interventions and future research. For instance, psychoeducation or community awareness programs designed to increase openness to psychological problems and reduce stigma are needed. Also, exploration of partnerships between faith-based organizations and mental health services could be helpful to African Americans.