Attitudes Toward Suicide, Mental Health, and Help-Seeking Behavior Among African Immigrants: An Ecological Perspective

Author(s): Sheri A. NSAMENANG


The population of Africans in the United States is growing, yet little is known about the impact of migration on the attitudes of African immigrants toward suicide, mental health, and help-seeking behavior. Migration entails movement from one cultural environment to another, and the process requires adaptation to the host country. According to Ecological Theory, interactions between the societal structures, values, and beliefs of the host country, cultural values from the country of origin, and individual-level characteristics may affect mental health-related attitudes and behaviors. As such, the current study used mixed methods, administered via online survey, to investigate socio-cultural predictors of attitudes toward suicide, mental health, and treatment seeking among African immigrants in the United States. In the current study the responses of 227 participants were used for qualitative analyses, and responses from 168 participants were used for quantitative analyses. Qualitative results indicated overall negative attitudes towards suicide and positive attitudes towards suicide prevention. Perceived culture-specific causes of suicide included acculturation difficulties, immigration stress, social causes such as home sickness discrimination, and racism, financial causes such as responsibility to kin in Africa, spiritual causes, and deportation risk. Results from quantitative analyses indicated that identification with African values and behaviors were related to lower levels of anxiety, depression, stress, and culture oriented psychological distress. Higher levels of spirituality and religiousness were associated with a negative attitude toward suicide. Implications for population based suicide prevention efforts for African immigrants and for mental health professionals working with African immigrants are discussed.

Tags: Suicidality, Prevention, Psychnological distress, Depression, Anxiety, Religion, Cultural identity, Africa, USA

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