Black Women are Open to Mental Health Services Via Mobile Technology

By Mark Melchionna

– Using survey data on patient attitudes toward mental health services and depression screening, a new study indicated that Black American Women are comfortable with using voice or video calls to communicate with mental health providers.

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that about one in ten women in the United States have experienced depression symptoms within the last year.

The study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), also indicated that Black American women are commonly affected by depression. While discrimination, financial issues, and chronic conditions may contribute to this, various factors prevent Black women from obtaining care. These may include stigmatization, limited access, or insurance complications.

Researchers used a self-administered, web-based questionnaire to gather data. With 70 questions, this survey addressed attitudes toward seeking help, openness to using a mobile phone to receive care, and depression screenings. They included women aged 18 and older who identified as Black, African American, or multiracial.  In total, 395 people participated.

Overall, Black women expressed optimism toward engaging with mental health services. There were, however, preferences toward certain types of communication. When receiving support for depression, patients preferred voice or video calls rather than SMS text messaging or mobile apps.

Research also indicated that those likely to seek help were also more likely to agree with using voice calls by 27 percent and video calls by 38 percent. The study also noted that higher severity of depression (moderate to severe) yielded a 43 percent higher chance of using apps.

Privacy and communication were common concerns when using virtual tools. Overall, researchers concluded that Black American women favored engaging with mental health services. They also had sufficient evidence that this population is comfortable using mobile tools to manage depression.

Despite the resourcefulness of telehealth, research indicates that disparities exist.

For example, a study from the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute from January arrived at this conclusion. Specifically, it found that disparities related to telehealth are often related to race, age, language, and technology access issues. 

Researchers made this conclusion after analyzing visits between January 2020 and December 2020 and provider surveys between August 2021 and April 2022 in the Los Angeles County healthcare system.

One of the main findings highlighted the importance of considering race, ethnicity, age, and language. Providers of color, for example, were more likely than White providers to report that patient race affected telehealth use.

Arturo Vargas Bustamante, PhD, a professor of health policy and management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and director of faculty research at the Latino Policy and Politics Institute, emphasized that improving telehealth implementation could diminish challenges among communities of color.

“For patients who may avoid medical appointments because of scheduling, the loss of wages or transportation challenges, telehealth offers an option to receive health care without leaving their home or workplace,” said Bustamante in a press release. “Our study found that while language and technological barriers persist, a hybrid approach, combining in-person and telehealth visits, has the potential to improve both the patient and provider experience.”

These pieces of research are indicative of how disparities often exist in telehealth. Furthermore, efforts to lessen these issues are necessary.  

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