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Aderonke Bamgbose Pederson, MD




Assistant Professor








Aderonke Bamgbose Pederson*, Alexander Tsai, Devan Hawkins, Judith Moskowitz, and Lisa Dixon

Understanding the association between mental health knowledge and mental health service utilization among Black adults

I see my community struggle with health disparities in mental health care and low uptake of mental health services. There are barriers to accessing mental health care related to knowledge and psychoeducation. I conducted a study on stigma, medical mistrust, mental health knowledge and other barriers towards engagement in treatment for Black adults. I would like the opportunity to share some of my research results with the Harvard Community. I hope to build networks and relationships across the medical school as I pursue my long term goal of becoming an independent physician-scientist who improves the health of the Black community.

Background: Mental health knowledge limitations may contribute to the treatment gap among Black adults. Knowledge is malleable and represents an area of focus that can potentially be used to address low utilization of mental health services.

Methods: We conducted an online cross-sectional study of Black adults in the United States (n = 262, aged 18-65 years) from diverse ethnic backgrounds (African-Americans, African immigrants, Afro-Caribbean immigrants). Gamma regression using generalized linear models was used to estimate the associations between mental health knowledge and willingness to seek help from mental health professionals.

Results: After adjusting for age, education and ethnicity, participants with higher specific knowledge about mental health (such as recognition of schizophrenia as a mental illness) were 26% more likely to report willingness to seek help from a mental health professional for personal and emotional problems (RR = 1.26, CI: 1.12 – 1.41, p < 0.001). Knowledge building interventions (such as psychoeducation) that seek to increase specific knowledge (rather than general knowledge) may correlate more strongly with utilization of mental health services among Black adults.

Conclusion: Our study highlights areas of knowledge that may serve as effective targets in construction of knowledge building interventions towards improved mental health outcomes for Black adults.