Race and gender differences in attitudes toward help seeking among marginalized young adults with mood disorders: A mixed-methods investigation

Sarah C. Narendorf, Michelle R. Munson, Shelly Ben-David, Andrea R. Cole, Lionel D. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Race and gender differences in help seeking are well-established; however, reasons for these differences are less clear. This study examined race and gender differences in two potential contributors- perceptions of illness and attitudes toward treatment-in a sample of marginalized young adults. Method: Interviews were conducted with young adults (age 18-25) with prior involvement in public systems of care and mood disorder diagnoses (n = 60). A quantitative interview assessed illness perceptions and attitudes followed by a qualitative interview focused on perceptions of mental illness and treatment. Analyses examined quantitative differences across four race/gender subgroups-White women (n = 13), White men (n = 6), women of color (n = 27), and men of color (n = 14), then qualitative results were reviewed for a subset of cases (n = 30) to understand differences revealed in the quantitative analyses. Results: Women of color had lower scores on illness understanding compared to other groups and men of color had lower scores on chronicity. Attitudes including propensity toward help seeking and stigma resistance were lowest in men of color, followed by women of color. Qualitative findings supported that men of color viewed their symptoms as less chronic and managed symptoms by changing their mindset rather than formal treatments. White participants talked more about their illnesses as chronic conditions and spoke more positively of treatment. Conclusion and Implications for Practice: Race/gender differences were identified, particularly in relation to views of mental illness and stigma. Messaging that highlights independence and strength in relation to managing symptoms may be particularly important for young people of color.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-289
Number of pages13
JournalPsychiatric Rehabilitation Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Gender differences
  • Mental health
  • Racial differences
  • Young adult

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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