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Background. Black men in college represent a subgroup of emerging adults who are at increased risk of developing mental health disorders (MHDs), such as anxiety and depression. Such risk has been attributed to disproportionate experiences with everyday racial discrimination and high levels of psychological distress. Despite being at higher risk, university-enrolled, Black men are not utilizing mental health or health resources at optimal rates. The current evidence base describing prevalence of MHDs and health services utilization among Black men in college is limited. The present study addresses this by examining mental health prevalence among university-enrolled, Black men and their rates of health services utilization.
Methods. We analyzed data (N ~ 2500) from a student survey, Spit for Science, a longitudinal, ongoing, research study at a mid-Atlantic, public university. Participants are given surveys in their freshman year and follow-up surveys every spring thereafter. Measures included: mental health disorders (depression and anxiety, as measured by the Symptom Checklist 90) and campus health service utilization (counseling center, health services, wellness center, and recreational sports). We conducted descriptive analyses to determine MHD symptom prevalence and utilization rates; Mann Whitney U tests to compare prevalence rates to White men and Black women; and, Chi-squared tests to compare rates of utilization among groups.
Results. During their Freshman year, greater than 60% of students from each ethnic group reported at least one anxiety symptom and greater than 80% reported at least one depressive symptom. By senior year, reporting rates decreased significantly for Black men (49.6%) but remained high for White men (69.1%) and Black women (63%); p <0.000. For depression, results were similar; however, only significant differences between Black men (72.7%) and Black women (87.1%); p<0.000. Black men (20.4%), though reporting high levels of symptoms, still utilized counseling services at lower rates compared to White men (37.76%); p = 0.024.
Conclusion. Findings suggest that Black men underutilize available campus health resources despite reporting one or more symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. Further research and prevention efforts are needed to improve help-seeking among this vulnerable population.
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