What Would You Do? Racial Differences in Mental Health Coping Strategies

Nicole Hart, University of Houston

Personal mental health coping mechanisms are both social and individual behaviors that relieve stress and other negative emotions. They are considered alternative to formal coping strategies due to the fact that they are not used under the guide of a mental health professional or in combination with therapy and medicine. Evidence shows that overall, black Americans use formal mental health therapy and medicine the least compared to other races and ethnicities, especially whites. What is lacking in the literature is an understanding of willingness to utilize traditional mental health services, as well as alternative coping strategies, both across different races/ethnicities and across different groups of blacks. Using a 2022 survey of Harris County residents, I explore racial and ethnic differences in both formal and personal coping mechanisms, such as exercise, social networks, and religion. The main finding of this study is that the largest differences in willingness to use coping strategies (both traditional and personal) varies more across racial groups rather than within the black community. Also, more than other racial groups, blacks are more likely to utilize religious services for mental health coping. This paper provides foundations for future policy and research concerning willingness to use mental health services and coping strategies both across racial groups and within the black community.

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 Presented in Session 41. The Intersection of Health and Race in the United States