This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Impact of Mental Health Literacy on Treatment Seeking Intentions across Specific Disorders: Accounting for Race/Ethnicity




Chakawa, Ayanda

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation




While 75% of mental health problems emerge by young adulthood, there is a strong reluctance during this developmental stage to seek professional help. Although limitations in mental health literacy, such as incorrect problem recognition, may hinder professional help-seeking intentions, the relationship between these variables has been understudied among young adults in the United States. Furthermore, though research suggests that racial/ethnic minority young adults are less likely than majority young adults are to seek help for general mental health needs, racial/ethnic differences in help-seeking intentions for specific disorders have not been explored in depth. The current study used a vignette-based approach to examine rates of problem recognition and professional help-seeking intentions among 1,776 young adults, the relationship between these latter variables, and the moderating role of race/ethnicity. Additionally, preferred source of help based on intentions to seek professional help for each psychological disorder was assessed for the overall sample and by race/ethnicity. Findings revealed that the frequency of correct problem recognition was significantly higher than the frequency of incorrect problem recognition across psychological disorders. Similarly, across psychological disorders, the frequency of intentions to seek professional help was significantly higher than the frequency of intentions not to seek professional help or being undecided. Correctly identifying a psychological disorder was significantly associated with intentions to seek professional help for GAD, Major Depression, PTSD, and ADHD. Race/ethnicity significantly influenced intentions to seek professional help for SAD and Major Depression, and significantly moderated the relationship between problem recognition and professional help-seeking intentions for Schizophrenia. Significant differences were found for primary source of help. Participants who endorsed intentions to seek professional help chose medical or mental health professional sources at a higher frequency than participants who indicated that they would not seek professional help or who were undecided. Among racial/ethnic groups, participants from minority backgrounds endorsed a preference for medical professionals and mental health professionals as a primary source of help at a lower frequency than participants from majority backgrounds. Based on the pattern of findings, implications for ways to address unmet mental health care needs and directions for future research were discussed.