Community Mental Health Journal

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 156–166

Seeking professional help for personal problems: Black American's use of health and mental health services

  • Harold W. Neighbors


This article explored the use of health and mental health services for serious personal problems in a national sample of adult black Americans. The results indicated low usage of the mental health sector in response to problems. Only 9% of the respondents who sought professional help contacted a community mental health center, psychiatrist or psychologist. Mental health usage was low even among respondents who felt their problem brought them to the point of a nervous breakdown and among respondents who conceptualized their distress in “emotional” terms. The traditional health care sector (doctors, hospitals) and ministers were used more often by blacks in distress. When the use of professional help only is considered, there appeared to be a large pocket of unmet need in the black community. When the use of informal help is taken into consideration, however, the percentage of respondents who did not receive help was considerably lower. The implications of these findings for professional service delivery are discussed.


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harold W. Neighbors
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn Arbor

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