Date of Conferral

2022

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Psychology

Advisor

Michael Johnson

Abstract

AbstractMental illness is considered a silent killer in East Africa as it affects 1 in 4 people. Differences exist in how individuals from Western countries perceive mental illness compared to East Africans’ perceptions. The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand the lived experiences of East African immigrants to the United States and the impact of these experiences on their perceptions of mental illness. Social learning theory and Berry’s acculturation model provided the framework for the study. Data were collected from 12 semistructured individual interviews with participants 20 years and older. The three themes that emerged from coding analysis were (a) perceptions of mental illness, (b) treatment of mental illness, and (c) destigmatizing mental illness. The findings indicated that mental illness stigma continues to be one of the barriers in accessing mental health services. The findings also indicated that East African immigrants in the United States often change their perception of mental illness because of the education, acceptance, and accessibility associated with mental illness in the United States. The results may be used to improve mental health services for East African immigrants in the United States and to improve the cultural competency of mental health providers when treating East Africans in the United States. The results may also contribute to improving mental health services in East Africa when shared with organizations such as the World Health Organization, Alliance for African Assistance, and International Rescue Committee leading to positive social change.

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