Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Social Work

Document Type



Evidence indicates that people of color underutilize mental health services, but little is known empirically about the help-seeking behaviors of African American emerging adults. The present mixed method study utilizes a concurrent design with nested samples for the qualitative and quantitative components to examine willingness to seek help and help-seeking intentions among college students. Data was collected from four location sites including Louisiana State University (n=38), Texas State University (n=15), The University of Southern Mississippi (n=65) and Southern University and A&M College (n=3). Minority and non-minority participants completed the Willingness-To-Seek-Help Questionnaire and the General Help-Seeking Questionnaire (n=120; M age=24 years; range= 18-29 years). Concurrently, African American emerging adult participants (n=6) who have sought out professional mental health treatment within the past 12 months completed in-depth interviews. Main findings include that minority emerging adults report lower willingness to seek formal psychological help than non-minority emerging adults. Minority emerging adults report lower formal help-seeking intention for suicidal or emotional problems. Findings include causes of distress, sources of support, and factors that encourage and discourage formal help-seeking among African American emerging adults. Correlational analysis showed that, among African American emerging adults, race and age are predictive of low willingness to seek help and age, gender and school affiliation are predictive of general help-seeking behavior. Findings of a thematic analysis showed that perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, self-efficacy, perceived benefits, perceived barriers, cues to action and social support are all constructs that influence the formal help-seeking experience. A policy implication is to improve public health policies to increase access to formal mental health treatment. Policy and practice implications are to promote and support the use of non-traditional formal support, such as teletherapy on college campuses and at community mental health centers. Other solutions for barriers to formal mental health services are discussed.



Committee Chair

Chaney, Cassandra



Included in

Social Work Commons