Black Patients Are Fearful of Mental Health Counseling Due to Stereotyping, Study Finds

Black patients with mental health concerns who undergo treatment fear being judged based on stereotypes, according to the findings of a study published in Patient Education and Counseling.

To conduct this study, researchers interviewed 85 Black veterans who underwent mental health counseling from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The researchers queried the participants about their views and experiences regarding race in healthcare, then analyzed the data using the grounded theory approach.

The researchers observed from the answers that Black people with mental health issues have concerns about racial diversity representation in healthcare settings, and perceptions of providers’ fears of Black patients. They noted that participants evaluated situational cues as identity threats, and how these cues affected their engagement behaviors and healthcare communication.


“Most healthcare providers are committed to providing good and equitable treatment to all patients regardless of their race or sexual-orientation but doctors, nurses and other clinicians are not immune to social and cultural influences that can lead to stereotyping and implicit racial bias — major contributors to healthcare disparities,” said Dr. Eliacin. “We aren’t asking providers to walk on egg shells, we are encouraging them to engage in two-way communication in order to better understand the people they serve and, ultimately, to promote health equity.”