Ethnic Minorities Reluctant to Seek Psychiatric Services

Racial disparities in mental health care will persist until barriers to seeking treatment are overcome

THURSDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Barriers to access to psychiatric services are a significant factor in racial and ethnic disparities in mental health care, according to two studies published in the November issue of Psychiatric Services, while a third finds that Spanish-speaking Hispanics have a poorer response to anti-depressant medications than their English-speaking Hispanic counterparts.

Ira Lesser, M.D., of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, in Torrance, Calif., and colleagues compared the clinical characteristics and outcomes of 121 English-speaking and 74 Spanish-speaking Hispanics who were treated for depression with citalopram and found that, possibly because of disadvantaged social status, Spanish-speaking patients had a less robust response to the drug.

Margarita Alegría, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School in Somerville, Mass., and colleagues evaluated differences in access to and quality of depression treatments in a population of 8,762 patients from different racial and ethnic minorities and found that among those who had been depressed in the past year, only 40.2 percent of non-Latino whites did not access any treatment, compared with 68.7 percent of Asians, 63.7 percent of Latinos and 58.8 percent of African Americans. However, A. Rani Elwy, Ph.D., of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Bedford, Mass., and colleagues found that once treatment for psychiatric and substance abuse problems was sought, racial and ethnic disparities evaporated.

"These findings suggest that racial and ethnic disparities in mental health care may be due to treatment-seeking rates, that more emphasis should be placed on ensuring that treatment is available and accessible, and that those who need treatment are activated to initiate it," the authors write.

Authors of the first study report financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry.

Abstract: Lesser et al
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Abstract: Alegria et al
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Abstract: Elwy et al
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