Exploring Asian American attitudes regarding mental health treatment in primary care: A qualitative study

BACKGROUND: In this exploratory study, we examined attitudes regarding mental health treatment among 10 Asian American patients in an urban primary care setting to better understand contextual barriers to care.

METHODS: Ten semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with Asian Americans recruited from primary care practices in an urban medi­cal center.

RESULTS: The study’s qualitative data suggest that focusing on specific cul­tural concerns is essential for increasing mental health access for Asian Americans. Although few participants initially expressed interest in a cul­turally focused mental health program themselves, when phrased as being part of their primary care practice, 8 expressed interest. Furthermore, most felt that the program could help family or friends. Many participants preferred to seek care initially from social systems and alternative and complementary medicine before seeking psychiatric care.

CONCLUSIONS: Because Asian Americans face notable barriers to seek­ing mental health treatment, addressing cultural concerns by providing culturally sensitive care could help make mental health treatment more acceptable, particularly among less acculturated individuals. To our knowledge, this is the first qualitative study exploring barriers to Asian Americans accessing integrated mental health services in primary care.

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