Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Kathryn Quina

Abstract

The study is examining the role of cultural and psychological factors that predict attitudes towards seeking mental health treatment. Given the role of treatment in reducing emotional distress, it is important to understand the issues people consider when exploring mental health treatment options. Specifically, constructs of stigma and acculturation were explored in relation to both attitudes toward and intentions to seek mental health treatment. Undergraduate and graduate students (246 women, 82 men; 237 White, 89 Nonwhite) recruited from two state colleges and a community college participated in an online survey assessing demographics as well as measures of stigma, acculturation, ethnic identity, racial stressors, mental health, attitudes towards help-seeking, and actual help-seeking. Stigma was found to be a significant mediator of acculturation (measured as relationship to heritage culture and ethnic identity) and attitudes towards seeking mental health treatment, lending support to the importance of not using just race/ethnicity as a proxy variable for culture when investigating barriers to seeking mental health treatment. In addition, not all types of stigma were significant predictors; while public and personal stigmas were significant, self-stigma was not a significant factor. Since public stigma and personal stigma are speculated to be the first part of the cognitive process associated with stigma, efforts should be made to develop interventions at the public stigma level before the stigma is internalized. Greater personal stigma for men and greater cultural stigma for ethnic minority participants warrant further investigation into the different types of stigma. In addition, racial/ethnic minority participants reported greater race-related stress than their White counterparts; race-related stress was associated with increased anxiety and stress symptoms. For the racial/ethnic minority participants, heritage acculturation and ethnic identity were protective factors, in that greater heritage acculturation was associated with lower levels of stress and stronger ethnic identity was associated with increased intentions towards seeking counseling. Furthermore, future research in this area can elucidate the complex measurement issues with the constructs of acculturation and stigma in college students.

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