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News

White, poor women with mental woes likely to seek treatment

University Of Michigan : 19 April, 2007  (Technical Article)
White, low-income women are more likely to seek outpatient services to treat mental health problems than their African American counterparts, a new study shows.
White, low-income women are more likely to seek outpatient services to treat mental health problems than their African American counterparts, a new study shows.

African Americans may be reluctant to seek mental health help based on barriers in the health care system or fears or stigma associated with receiving treatment, said Richard Tolman, a professor in the University of Michigan's School of Social Work.

'If low-income women are going to be successful in their transition from welfare to work, addressing the service needs of those women with mental health disorder will be critical,' he said.

The study explored African American and white welfare recipients' use of mental health services in general medical settings, such as doctor's offices or emergency rooms, and psychotropic medication.

Data collected from 668 women in Tolman's Mothers' Well-being Study, a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, showed that nearly 41 percent of white respondents with a mood disorder in the past 12 months received help in medical settings compared to only 13.4 percent among African Americans.

Among women with an anxiety disorder, more than three times as many white respondents as African American respondents received services in medical settings, 24 percent versus 8 percent, respectively, the study said.

Nearly one in five whites who had any disorder measured in the past 12 months were taking psychotropic medication compared with one in 10 African Americans.

While most respondents had a doctor they could see on a regular basis, overall nearly one-third of them did not seek medical care when they needed it within the past year. This suggests that differences in African American and white mental health services and medication use are not due to differences in access to a primary care physician, but factors within the health care setting.
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