Among students at risk for depression, Black students were less likely than White and Hispanic students to have received treatment.
Low-income and lack of insurance are popular explanations for inadequate treatment of mental illness among Black and Hispanic adolescents; however, minorities might attach a social stigma to mental illness that further discourages children from seeking treatment.
Because they provide equal access to all students, school-based health centers are ideal for investigating treatment disparities. This study examined the use of mental health services at a public high school in southeast Texas; the research took place during 2008. The school’s clinic was sensitive to cultural differences among its student-patients; in addition, the clinic used a portfolio of referral services and provided medications to uninsured students; these practices further limited the possibility that minority students would have forgone treatment only because of socioeconomic factors.
- Black students were as likely as White students to have reported depressive symptoms to an adult.
- White students were more likely to have received a diagnosis of depression.
The findings of this study suggest that socioeconomic factors do not fully explain ethnic disparities in treatment for depression among adolescents.