Mental Health Treatment Seeking and Perceived Stigma Among International Students

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Background. Mori (2000) put forward evidence that international students were at greater risk for psychological problems. He also said that mental health concerns of international students on American campuses were often overlooked. Stigma associated with mental illness and seeking treatment is the reason most often cited that people do not seek counseling and other mental health services (Corrigan, 2004). No studies have focused on international students’ beliefs about service seeking or stigma around health treatment seeking. Objective. The basic aims of this study are to examine international students’ beliefs about mental health services and relationships between stigma and mental health treatment seeking. Method. Participants are 35 international students who were invited to fill out an online questionnaire. The measures included in the questionnaire were designed to collect demographic information (i.e. sex, age, country of birth, etc.), students’ perceived stigma regarding help seeking (i.e. social stigma), students’ overall distress level, students’ prior treatment seeking and willingness to seek treatment from various people (i.e. family/friends, psychologists, teachers, doctors, etc.), and students’ willingness to seek treatment from a psychologist in various settings (i.e. Community clinic, private practice, primary care, etc.). Results. International students at ETSU generally reported feeling moderate levels of stigma regarding mental health treatment [M=2.02, SD=.466, N=36 (1= little/no experienced stigma and 4 = extremely high levels of experienced stigma). Additionally, they reported being equally as likely to seek help from others as to deal with their troubles on their own (M=2.47, SD=.416, N=34). Among the students who hadn’t talked with family members/close friends, doctors, or psychologists about their problems, the more stigma that they felt, the less willing that they were to talk with family members/close friends, doctors, or psychologists in the future (r=-.474, p<.05, N=19; r=-.503, p<.01, N=27; r=-.689, p<.001, N=27). Among all international students, the more stigma they felt, the less willing that they were to seek treatment from a psychologist (counselor or therapist) working at their school or community behavior and health center (r=-.39, p<.05, N=30; r=-.415, p<.05, N=31). However, stigma was not found to be significantly correlated with treatment seeking from a psychologist working in any other setting (ie. private practice or doctors’ office). Implications. Even though the results show that international students generally only feel a moderate amount of stigma, the stigma that they do experience significantly influences their willingness to seek mental health treatment. Future research should focus on identifying new ways addressing this major barrier to mental health treatment seeking to hopefully increase mental health service utilization by international student on college campuses.


Johnson City, TN

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