Obstructed Use: Reconceptualizing the Mental Health (Help-Seeking) Experiences of Black Americans

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Journal of Black Psychology

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The present body of scholarship suggests that Black Americans seek mental health services at much lower rates than their White American counterparts. The explanations for these decreased levels of mental health help-seeking typically distinguish “barriers” such as stigmatization, lack of culturally relevant treatment models, and negative attitudes toward mental health services. The final results of these analyses are not invalid; however, this researcher contends that they are arguably incomplete. Black Americans must navigate countless obstacles rooted in systematic oppression, institutional inequalities, and structural disparities when seeking help for mental health concerns. This article reviews a set of key terms to offer a historically based and culturally candid perspective on those mental health service seeking experiences for underresourced Black Americans living in environmentally toxic urban spaces. The four theoretical concepts of historical trauma, environmental toxicity, culturally bound economic insecurity, and cultural mistrust both individually and interactively are used to present a more realistic topography of the mental health (help-seeking) experiences for underresourced Black Americans. These ideas are collectively positioned as the theoretical construct of obstructed use.



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