Mental health treatment varies based on race

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Despite widespread public interest and information as well as diagnostic tools and therapies, there remains significant disparities in the course of treatment for people depression. All too often, the disparity appears to be race based.

Lead author of the study, Ayse Akincigil, an assistant professor in Rutgers’ School of Social work , and colleagues found that African Americans were significantly less likely to get a depression diagnosis than whites. Furthermore, for those diagnosed with depression, they were less likely to get treatment.

“Vigorous clinical an public health initiatives are needed to address this persisting disparity in care,” said Akincigil.

As many as 6.6% of older Americans experience a major depression episode each year. “If untreated or undertreated, depression can significantly diminish quality of life,” she pointed out. Depression complicates other ailments as well including congestive heart failure, diabetes, arthritis and dementia.

“Are there cultural differences or systemic differences regarding health care quality and access for treatment of depression?” Akincigil asked. “If African Americans prefer psychotherapy over drugs, then accessing therapists for treatment in poorer neighborhoods is a lot more difficult than it is for whites, who generally have higher incomes and live in neighborhoods more likely for therapists and doctors to be located. Whites use more antidepressants than African Americans. We presume they have better access to doctors and pharmacies, and more money to spend on drugs.”

There are definitely differences in help-seeking patterns between races. Blacks will most often approach pastors or lay counselors, whereas whites see their family doctor. Many African Americans pointed to stigma, shame and denial as reasons for not seeking or following through on treatment. Additionally, African Americans report a greater distrust of doctors than non-Hispanic whites.

Source: American Journal of Public Health, MedicalNewsToday

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