Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Mass Communications

First Advisor

Timothy Bajkiewicz


Research has shown African Americans experience mental health issues at the same rate as the general population but seek treatment at only one-third that rate. Eleven African American low-income urban community leaders with basic training in mental health issues were interviewed about their perceptions of African American patterns of communication on mental health issues. Findings included a general consensus that the topic is generally not discussed, although passing references to a party’s perceived mental illness may be made using humor. When such discussion does take place, it happens only in a “safe space” with a trusted dialogue partner. Non-verbal cues are an important element of these conversations, as are non-judgmental, attentive and purposeful listening. The participants report that community members who did not receive the basic mental health training speak with great disparagement of those they perceive to be mentally ill.


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