Benita Bamgbade

Benita Bamgbade

Benita Bamgbade, a doctoral student in the College of Pharmacy at The University of Texas at Austin, was a 2016 recipient of the Moore Fellowship for Doctoral Research from the Hogg Foundation. Her dissertation is titled, “The Impact of a Psychoeducational Intervention on the Attitudes and Mental Health Care Seeking Behaviors Among African Americans.” The study will test a culturally tailored, evidence-based intervention on the mental health help-seeking behavior of African Americans.

Since its establishment in 1995, the Harry E. and Bernice M. Moore Fellowship has been awarded to students from The University of Texas at Austin to complete a dissertation on the human experience in crises resulting from natural or other major disasters or, in a broader sense, stress and adversity.The award provides $20,000 for research-related expenses.

We spoke to Benita about her research.

Tell us about yourself. At what point did you decide to pursue this particular line of research, and what influenced that decision?

I was born and raised in Houston, Texas and my family is from Nigeria. I completed my pre-pharmacy work here at The University of Texas and graduated with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the College of Pharmacy in 2011. In pharmacy school, I developed an interest in health disparities and the intersection of race. My interest in mental health disparities was sparked during my second year of graduate school while taking a class in the School of Nursing entitled, “Theories of Health Behavior” taught by Dr. Tracie Harrison. She introduced me to Anthony Jorm’s Mental Health Literacy Theory. Through combing through the literature I began to see the complexities of mental health among African Americans. I found the issues to be both fascinating and exciting.

Your dissertation is titled: The Impact of a Psychoeducational Intervention on the Attitudes and Mental Health Care Seeking Behaviors Among African Americans. What questions are you trying to answer with this work?

There is a disparity in the prevalence of African Americans who receive treatment for mental health conditions. The most recent estimates show that 70 percent of African American adults living with mental illness receive no treatment compared to 53 percent of white adults. Moreover, lack of help-seeking among young African American adults is higher with 81 percent receiving no treatment compared to 66 percent of young white adults. Studies have explored this disparity by trying to understand and describe the factors that impact help-seeking. Through this research, we have learned that unique cultural variables, such as self-reliance and cultural mistrust, may impact help seeking in ways that are different from other populations. Presently there are interventions that have successfully improved mental health help-seeking such as Mental Health First Aid, which is recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as an evidenced-based program. Yet, there is no evidence that these interventions are successful in African American populations. Furthermore, these evidenced-based interventions do not incorporate cultural variables into their programs. The goal of this project is to fill this gap. We would like to know if a culturally tailored evidence-based intervention is more successful at improving help seeking among African Americans when compared to the original untailored intervention.

What gap in the literature will be filled by your study? Who stands to benefit from it?

Firstly, we hope that this study will benefit those who take part in our intervention. We acknowledge and appreciate this opportunity to reach those who may be living with an undiagnosed mental illness and possibly connect them to help. We also are appreciative of the opportunity to normalize mental illness and to help remove the stigma that exists in the African American community. We believe this study will take the important initial step in developing a targeted and evidenced-based intervention for African Americans. We hope that this study will inform future research and intervention development. Such results are expected to have an important positive impact and will lay a foundation of intervention research aimed at diminishing African American mental health disparities.

How do you think your research methods and approach will help you to answer the questions that you’re posing?

We will be utilizing a randomized controlled trial design with a comparison group and longitudinal follow-up to employ the highest level of scientific rigor. Additionally, we will be using focus groups with potential participants to ensure that we identify ideas that have the best chance of resolving the existing disparity. I am very fortunate to be working with an amazing dissertation committee that is passionate about African American health issues, because of their own personal experiences, backgrounds and research. My committee chair, Dr. Jamie Barner is well published in health outcomes and has led mental health-related projects examining disparities in and impact of antidepressant use. Dr. Carolyn Brown brings expertise in health behaviors and disparities including work in mental health. Dr. Kentya Ford is a public health researcher with a passion for health disparities and has expertise in developing and examining culturally relevant interventions for youth and college age minority populations, that include mental health indicators (e.g., depressive symptomology). Dr. William Lawson is a renowned mental health researcher committed to health disparities serving as the Associate Dean for Health Disparities for the Dell Medical School and the medical director at The Sandra Joy Anderson Community Health and Wellness Center. Lastly, Dr. Kimberly Burdine is a psychologist and Diversity Coordinator at the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center. Dr. Burdine provides preventative and specialized programming for Black and African American students. Dr. Burdine is passionate about and specializes in helping improve access and quality of services to Black and African American students.

Are there any suggested readings you can recommend for those who might be interested in learning more about the topic?

Holden, Kisha B., et al. “Psychosocial, socio-cultural, and environmental influences on mental health help-seeking among African-American men.” Journal of Men’s Health 9.2 (2012): 63-69.

Matthews, Alicia K., et al. “A qualitative exploration of African-Americans’ attitudes toward mental illness and mental illness treatment seeking.” Rehabilitation Education 20.4 (2006): 253-268.

Austin Area African American Behavioral Health Network:

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) African American Mental Health:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) “Racial/Ethnic Differences in Mental Health Service Use Among Adults:”

Mental Health First Aid: