242176 Symptom expression and mental health literacy among low-income Latina women: A qualitative analysis

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 10:50 AM

Norah Mulvaney-Day, PhD , Domestic Health, Abt Associates, Cambridge, MA
Dharma Cortés, PhD , Mauricio Gastón Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA
Low levels of mental health literacy (i.e., knowledge/beliefs about mental disorders that aid recognition) may contribute to adverse health effects and mental health service disparities among Latinos. The focus of this qualitative study was to describe factors that characterize psychiatric symptom expression for Latina women during mental health intake sessions and generate theory to inform development of mental health literacy interventions.

We analyzed videotaped mental health intakes of 20 Latina women with depression or anxiety, selected from a parent study of 129 intakes. We varied our sample according to new versus previous history of mental health treatment and English versus Spanish speaking. A coding team identified factors related to symptom expression in the intake, and documented provider input. These factors were grouped into categories and compared across sample characteristics.

Four primary factors emerged: labeling of disorder; problem recognition; knowledge about mental health treatment; and social/cultural expressions of disorder. Most previously treated patients labeled disorders using psychiatric language, while new to treatment Spanish speaking patients used cultural idioms. Spanish speakers expressed somatic symptoms, but also utilized psychiatric terminology to describe mental health symptoms. Patients frequently linked symptom expression with social stressors and cultural issues. Providers and patients combined sociocultural and medical explanatory frameworks when discussing symptomatology.

Even patients new to treatment demonstrated some degree of mental health literacy. Mental health literacy interventions should address cultural idioms and somatic symptoms, but also expand to consider how providers could better address the intersection between social stressors and psychiatric symptomatology with this population.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1. Define mental health literacy 2. Describe the ways that mental health symptoms may be expressed differently among Latina women who speak Spanish and are new to treatment. 3. Analyze how sociocultural factors may interact with psychiatric symptom expression for low-income Latina women.

Keywords: Health Literacy, Latino Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I am the first author on this paper, and am a senior scientist at a research center that studies mental health issues for multicultural populations.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.