Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Public Health


Mary Lou Gutierrez


Mental illness is more prevalent among African Americans than their Non-Hispanic White counterparts; however, this population is less inclined to receive behavioral treatment. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between perceived social support, substance use, and gender with mental health care services utilization among African Americans. The social ecological model and social support theory grounded this study. The research design was a quantitative cross-sectional analysis of the 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey. The sample consisted of 486,3030 African American adults that represented the U.S. population using weighted estimates. The overall logistic regression models for the 3 research questions were significant (p = .000). Controlling for sociodemographic factors, logistic regression analyses indicated that receiving emotional and social support predicted (OR=2.294) use of mental health care services in the last 12 months. Similarly, not using substances in the prior 30 days (OR=1.309) and being female (OR=2.562) predicted use of mental health care services in the last 12 months. The findings from this study may be used to increase awareness among mental health providers to refer African Americans to emotional and social support resources. The findings may lead to positive social change through the development of interventions for those who use substances and for men.