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Hot Topics in Research: Racial and ethnic minority college students’ stigma associated with seeking psychological help

David Teter Hot Topics in Research

Cheng HL, Kwan KL, Sevig T. Racial and ethnic minority college students’ stigma associated with seeking psychological help: Examining psychocultural correlates. J Couns Psychol. 2013 Jan;60(1):98-111. doi: 10.1037/a0031169. PMID: 23356468.

Abstract:

Many college students underuse professional psychological help for mental health difficulties. The stigma associated with seeking such help appears to be one of the reasons for this underuse. Levels of psychological distress and past use of counseling/psychotherapy have been found to be important correlates of stigma associated with seeking psychological help (Obasi & Leong, 2009; Vogel, Wade, & Haake, 2006). For racial and ethnic minorities, the hindering effects of self-stigma and perceived stigmatization by others on treatment seeking may further be compounded by their relationships with their own ethnic groups, with other ethnic groups, and with the dominant society. This study used structural equation modeling (SEM) to test a model that explored the effects of psychological distress and psychocultural variables (i.e., ethnic identity, other-group orientation, perceived discrimination) on perceived stigmatization by others and self-stigma for seeking psychological help, controlling for past use of counseling/psychotherapy. The sample consisted of 260 African American, 166 Asian American, and 183 Latino American students. SEM multigroup analyses indicated measurement invariance, but partial structural invariance, across racial/ethnic groups. Across all 3 groups, higher levels of psychological distress and perceived racial/ethnic discrimination, respectively, predicted higher levels of perceived stigmatization by others for seeking psychological help, which, in turn, predicted greater self-stigma for seeking psychological help. Higher levels of other-group orientation predicted lower levels of self-stigma of seeking psychological help across groups. Higher levels of ethnic identity predicted lower levels of self-stigma of seeking psychological help only for African Americans. Implications for research and practice are discussed.