Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

The Role of Social Support in Moderating the Relationship between Psychological Distress and Willingness to Seek Psychological Help among Black and Latino College Students

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

The Role of Social Support in Moderating the Relationship between Psychological Distress and Willingness to Seek Psychological Help among Black and Latino College Students

Article excerpt

This study examined the role of social support in moderating the relationship between psychological distress and willingness to seek psychological help in 158 Black and Latino college students from a large, predominantly White university. The authors found that a social support network served as a significant moderator for Black college students but not for their Latino counterparts. Implications of the findings are presented.

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Previous literature has indicated that Black and Latino college students may avoid accessing formal mental health resources, such as college or university counseling centers, because of(a) the potential stigma or shame associated with service utilization (e.g., Constantine, Chen, & Ceesay, 1997; Knipscheer & Kleber, 2001; Narikiyo & Kameoka, 1992), (b) strong levels of commitment to their culture (e.g., Price & McNeill, 1992), (c) cultural values emphasizing family and social relationships over mental health counseling (e.g., Utsey, Adams, & Bolden, 2000), and (d) distrust of White counselors (e.g., Nickerson, Helms, & Terrell, 1994). Hence, social support resources in the form of relationships with significant others, such as family members and close friends, have been recognized as essential mechanisms for coping with psychological distress among many Black and Latino college students (e.g., Constantine et al., 1997; Utsey et al., 2000).

Over the past few decades, there has been a proliferation of research related to the critical role of social support in the lives of students of color on college and university campuses. For example, a consistent finding in the social support literature has been that Black and Latino college students often rely on family members and other informal social support networks (i.e., same-race or ethnic peers) to help address their problems prior to seeking formal psychological services through college or university counseling centers (Alexander, 2000; Boesch & Cimbolic, 1994; Cervantes, 1988; Constantine et al., 1997; Harris & Molock, 2000). Furthermore, Carter (2000) found that Black female college students tended to report emotional support from family members, participation in community church services, and connection to a faculty mentor as essential social support factors associated with their academic achievement. Among a sample of Chicano college students, Shibazaki (1999) found that high levels of emotional support from family members predicted less psychological distress. Hence, a greater understanding of Black and Latino college students' coping strategies, which emphasize the use of family and communal relationships, may be useful for college counseling center personnel who wish to identify ways to best address the mental health issues of these students. This study, in part, examined the relationships of self-reported psychological distress, social support, and willingness to seek mental health counseling among Black and Latino college students.

The cultural values of Black and Latino college students may influence their use of indigenous strategies to cope with stressors in their lives (Gloria & Rodriguez, 2000; Simoni & Perez, 1995). In particular, these students' collective emphases on family relationships, other social networks, and religion may cause them to access coping strategies that are in line with these cultural values (Abraido-Lanza, Guier, & Revenson, 1996; Utsey et al., 2000; Zea, Jarama, & Bianchi, 1995). For example, McMiller and Weisz (1996) found that Blacks and Latinos tended to access more informal pathways, such as family members and friends, prior to contacting a formal mental health agency for services. Furthermore, Kaniasty and Norris (2000) found that Blacks may use professional mental health services to address their psychological concerns during crisis situations, such as natural disasters, if more informal community resources are strained at the family and community level. …

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