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Examining Why Mental Health Service Use and Dropout Rates Vary Across Racial/Ethnic Groups

7 Oct 2022 11:07 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

Mental illnesses often go untreated, especially for people in racial/ethnic minority groups. Among U.S. adults with mental disorders, racial/ethnic minorities are only half as likely as Whites to get treatment; they are also more likely to drop out before completing their treatment. As a result, although they are less likely than Whites to have a mental disorder in their lifetime, racial/ethnic minorities have more severe cases of mental disorders.

There are multiple reasons why people with mental disorders may not get treatment. An NIMHD-supported study aimed to uncover some of these reasons among Asians, Blacks, Latinos, and Whites by using data from three nationally representative surveys conducted from 2001 to 2003. The data included survey responses from 1,417 adults with untreated mental disorders for 12 months. All individuals were interviewed to assess their conditions, including anxiety, substance use, and behavioral and mood disorders, ranging from mild to severe. The survey asked about reasons for not seeking treatment or for discontinuing treatment early. Some reported reasons were that the respondents wanted to handle the problems themselves, did not think their problems were severe, or did not believe that the treatment would work. Other reasons cited were that people could not afford or access treatment, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods with fewer health providers.

The survey data showed that Latinos and Asians were more likely than Blacks and Whites to report that they received no treatment for mental disorders lasting 12 months. Latinos and Asians were also more likely to report that they did not think they needed treatment.

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