Perceptions of Mental Health Services among Low-Income, Perinatal African-American Women

Julie A. Leis, Tamar Mendelson, Deborah F. Perry, S. Darius Tandon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The objective of this qualitative study was to explore perceptions of mental health services as a barrier to service use among low-income, urban, perinatal African-American clients of home visiting programs. Methods: Inductive thematic analysis procedures were used to analyze data collected from focus groups conducted with clients (n = 38) and staff (n = 26) of two paraprofessional home visiting programs. Findings: Four complementary themes were identified: Perceptions of mental health care providers, concerns about confidentiality, beliefs about the effectiveness of psychotherapy, and perceptions of psychotropic medication. Overall, perceptions of mental health services were largely negative. Many women equated seeing a mental health care provider with being prescribed psychotropic medication, and providers were commonly described as uncaring and emotionally detached. In general, psychotherapy was perceived as ineffective, and many women expressed strong negative views about psychotropic medication. Conclusion: Perceptions of mental health services were clearly an impediment to service use in this population of low-income, perinatal African-American women. Findings from this study can inform efforts to overcome barriers to mental health service use and develop effective perinatal mental health interventions. Implications of this work include use of the home visitation setting as a context for delivering knowledge and shaping positive attitudes and behaviors with respect to mental health practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-319
Number of pages6
JournalWomen's Health Issues
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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