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A Racial Identity Conceptualization of Perceived Stigma and Self-Stigma: Implications for Attitudes and Service Use Among African American College Students Open Access

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This study examines how the centrality of Black racial identity, how important being Black is to one’s self-concept, and private regard of Black racial identity, one’s personal views of Blackness, influences associations between perceived stigma and self-stigma of mental illness, attitudes toward mental health services, and intent to seek services in 294 African American college students. Perceived stigma of mental illness refers to awareness of and agreement with negative beliefs about mental illness, while self-stigma of mental illness exists when these negative beliefs are internalized and applied to the self. Hierarchical multiple regressions and bootstrapping analyses were conducted to test the study’s seven hypotheses. Results showed that centrality of Black racial identity moderated the relationship between perceived stigma of mental illness and attitudes toward mental health services and that private regard of Black racial identity moderated the relationship between self-stigma of mental illness and attitudes toward mental health services. The results also supported moderated mediation: perceived stigma had both direct and indirect (through attitudes toward mental health services) effects on the intent to seek services, but the effects were conditional, depending on the value of centrality of Black racial identity. Similarly, the direct effect of self-stigma of mental illness on the intent to seek services and the indirect effect through attitudes toward mental health services were conditional depending on the value of private regard of Black racial identity. Thus, when trying to understand how mental health stigma impacts help-seeking among African American students, the role of Black racial identity is an important factor to consider.

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