Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


African Americans-Attitudes, African Americans-Mental health, Help-seeking behavior, Mental illness-Public opinion, Stigma (Social psychology), African American social workers, Stigma, Mental illness, African Americans


This qualitative study explored the stigma of mental illness within the African American community from the perspective of African American clinicians. Nine clinicians were interviewed and were asked to discuss personal messages received about mental illness within their family, community, and religious organizations. They also shared their perceptions of African American attitudes, based upon client interactions, towards mental illness and whether a change has occurred within the past 5-10 years; identifiable stigmas within the African American community; inhibitors to help-seeking behaviors; variables that influences help-seeking behaviors; and their recommendations for improving African Americans' comfort with disclosure within the therapeutic setting. The findings from the study revealed that negative stigma about mental illness remains dominant within the African American community and that many of its members also hold negative attitudes about mental illness. However, the findings did also show that a slight positive shift in stigma and attitudes has occurred. Additional findings addressed the key role that family plays in messages received about mental illness, the association between mental illness and religion/spirituality for many African Americans, and the importance of establishing rapport as being central to the therapeutic relationship in improving African Americans' comfort with disclosure within the therapeutic setting. Future research should focus on the further development of recommendations to decrease the negative attitudes and stigmas regarding mental illness within the African American community, as well as further exploring the role of the African American family as it relates to mental illness symptom identification and seeking mental health services.




ii, 73 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2013. Includes bibliographical references (p. 62-64)