Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 22, Issue 9, pp 1292–1297 | Cite as

Stigma and the Acceptability of Depression Treatments Among African Americans and Whites

  • Jane L. Givens
  • Ira R. Katz
  • Scarlett Bellamy
  • William C. Holmes
Original Article



Stigma is associated with depression treatment, however, whether stigma differs between depression treatment modalities is not known, nor have racial differences in depression treatment stigma been fully explored.


To measure stigma for four depression treatments and estimate its association with treatment acceptability for African Americans and whites.


Cross-sectional, anonymous mailed survey.


Four hundred and ninety African-American and white primary care patients.


The acceptability of four depression treatments (prescription medication, mental health counseling, herbal remedy, and spiritual counseling) was assessed using a vignette. Treatment-specific stigma was evaluated by asking whether participants would: (1) feel ashamed; (2) feel comfortable telling friends and family; (3) feel okay if people in their community knew; and (4) not want people at work to know about each depression treatment. Sociodemographics, depression history, and current depressive symptoms were measured.


Treatment-specific stigma was lower for herbal remedy than prescription medication or mental health counseling (p < .01). Whites had higher stigma than African Americans for all treatment modalities. In adjusted analyses, stigma relating to self [AOR 0.43 (0.20–0.95)] and friends and family [AOR 0.42 (0.21–0.88)] was associated with lower acceptability of mental health counseling. Stigma did not account for the lower acceptability of prescription medication among African Americans.


Treatment associated stigma significantly affects the acceptability of mental health counseling but not prescription medication. Efforts to improve depression treatment utilization might benefit from addressing concerns about stigma of mental health counseling.


stigma depression treatment patient preferences ethnicity 



The authors would like to acknowledge Jason Fu and Brian Shin for their assistance with survey distribution and data entry. This project was supported by funding from the University Research Foundation of the University of Pennsylvania.

Conflict of Interest

None disclosed.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane L. Givens
    • 1
    • 6
  • Ira R. Katz
    • 2
  • Scarlett Bellamy
    • 5
  • William C. Holmes
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Boston University Medical Center, Geriatrics SectionBostonUSA
  2. 2.Section of Geriatric Psychiatry, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion Philadelphia Veterans Administration Medical CenterPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Division of General Internal Medicine University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  5. 5.Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  6. 6.BostonUSA

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