Cuts too Deep for Mental Health Services to Fix?

by Mariam Mikhail on November 13, 2016 - 8:17pm

In his research, Ignatius Samuel interviewed 54 African American male adolescents measure the impact of culture on their perspective of help-seeking behaviors. He found that these individuals are less likely to seek help from mental health services especially if they were anteriorly involved with the juvenile justice system. The researcher chose male adolescents between the age of 15-17 that are either still receiving mental health services or that received help in the past. The participants were asked questions in order to measure the way that the participant’s cultural and religious background, as well as their relationships affected their view on mental health use. The results show that many of the participant felt that some mental health problems derived from the discrimination they faced everyday, as well as the hard condition they lived it. Another belief that was found among the participants is the idea of denial. Some thought that people denied their mental health issues because of the myths and folklore of the culture and religious beliefs. Furthermore, the researcher found that many participants were reluctant to get the help they needed because of the social belief that it made it made them weak. The adolescents explained that they did not want to seek help because their parents and/or their friends did not support believe in the power of mental health services, and thus convinced the individual in question not to go. The author believes that, in order to help the patients to cope with their environment, therapist should be trained to able to provide responses that take into consideration the culture and the environmental factors of the patients. He also suggests that mental health institutions should work with other organization, such as churches, to provide the adequate information about mental health problems, and therefore eliminate erroneous beliefs. Moreover, the author believes that mental heath institutions should also collaborate with the juvenile detention even before the adolescents’ release in order to give more time to the counselor to create a link with the patient.


I personally found this research very interesting, but what surprised me is that many of the participants believed that most African American had mental health issues because of the racism, discrimination and the environment they live in. I found that extremely sad and unfair because they had to cope with those hard situations everyday, and most of them did not seek help because they did not believe that the mental help services could help them, or simply because it is frowned upon in society. As a result, I agree with the author when he suggest that we should try to eliminate erroneous beliefs about the infectivity of mental health services by talking about it more in schools and by making awareness campaigns that show the effectiveness of therapy. I also think it is a good idea to make the adolescence in juvenile detention attend therapy sessions while they are serving their time, because this will help them cope with the hardships they are facing in detention. Finally, I would suggest that in a future research we compare this data to one that has a wider sample that includes more people from various ethnicities and social background.

Samuel, I. (2015). Utilization of Mental Health Services Among African-American Male Adolescents Released from Juvenile Detention: Examining Reasons for Within-Group Disparities in Help-Seeking Behaviors. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 32(1), 33-43. Retreived from:


This post caught my eye because the topic "mental health" is something I never used to believe in until these recent years. My reaction to this post is that I agree with practically everything. I agree with how discrimination, racism, and the environment you live in can affect one's mental health because if you're getting discriminated against or see people of the same race of yours getting discriminated against, it can lower your self esteem and make you feel attacked and insignificant. The environment that you're in can affect your mental health in many ways. For example, if you naturally have really curly short hair and everyone else has straight hair, a part of you is going to want straight hair so you don't feel like that one black sheep in the a crowd of white sheep; all of this especially when you are young. Growing up in my town and household, many minority people especially immigrant elders, don't believe in depression or anxiety and other mental illnesses. Our elders ( of minority people) are the people who raise us. My father ( Hispanic immigrant) doesn't believe in depression or anxiety actually being an illness that can actually impact your everyday life. My sister was diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder at a very young age and as she was growing up, my father believed that my sister was just being dramatic and that she just wanted attention so when she would go to counseling he believed that it was all garbage, that none of that sort of thing ever helps. For a while I thought the same thing until I experienced some things myself and observed my sister more throughout the years. Besides all of that, I know for a fact in many cases pride has a lot to do with many minority people not reaching out for help, also the chance of feeling vulnerable, exposed or looking weak in front of others is something many minorities tend to avoid even if it means refusing to reach out for help when you really need it. It's just something I've grown to realize through out the years in my community. I agree with advertising mental health awareness in schools and church's and campaigning the positive effects and results on therapy etc to make it more accepting to society for minorities and I also agree with the idea of adolescence in juvenile detention to attend therapy while they are still serving time.

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