Harold W. Neighbors, PhD (University of Michigan School of Public Health)
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)
Project Goals & Approach:
Depression is a prevalent and painfully debilitating mental disorder. Although treatable, there are significant racial and gender differences in who gets help for depression. African Americans are less likely than White Americans to seek treatment and men are far less likely to be treated than women. In particular, African American men are the group least likely to seek help for depression. There are dire consequences associated with ignoring the problem of underutilization. Mental health professionals have been concerned about the disproportionate increase in suicide among younger African American males for more than a decade. Just as important is the increasing suicide risk among African American men in later adulthood. When left untreated, some depressed individuals recover; but many suffer unnecessarily for long periods of time. Unfortunately, too many African American men do not recognize that they may have depression; and when they do, the idea of seeking help is not widely accepted. While the aforementioned findings point clearly to a problem that needs to be addressed, they do not tell us what should be done about the fact that so many African American men think that they should “man up,” face stressful situations alone, and avoid seeking treatment for depression.
The Man up, Man down! project focuses on translating and disseminating research results on underutilization of mental health services into formats and venues intended to increase awareness of treatment for depression among African American men. The project begins with focus groups conducted in four U.S. cities in order to base the depression awareness materials on the experiences of African American men. Focus groups are a particularly useful starting point precisely because they provide such rich explanatory data. The focus group findings will guide the development of culturally and gender sensitive depression awareness messages. These messages are intended to increase mental health literacy, reduce depression stigma, and identify preferred delivery channels for African American men. Potential delivery channels will include interactive websites, pamphlets, online articles/news briefs, and television/radio spots. Two new videos targeting African American men specifically will be produced based on findings from the focus group data. The strength of this approach, which is based on targeted social marketing principles, is that these messages will derive from themes (e.g., masculinity, stigma) based on the words of African American men.