Date of Conferral
Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
Evaluating the attitude of African American clergy toward parishioners seeking professional mental health services for mental illness has important treatment implications. Religion and spirituality are equally important determinants of mental health and can affect African American clergy's attitudes toward professional care for mental illness. Utilizing the health belief model (HBM), this quantitative study examined the role of theological beliefs, education, and personal experience with mental illness as they correlated with clergy's attitudes toward seeking professional mental illness services. Approximately 98 African American Protestant Clergy in the states of Georgia and South Carolina participated in this study. Data were collected using self-administered surveys via e-mail and mailings using the religious attitude scale (RAS) and the attitude toward seeking professional psychological help scale (ATSPPHS). A multiple linear regression analysis was used to examine the correlation of independent variables. The results of this study indicated that theological beliefs (p = 0.025) but not education (p = 0.084) or personal experience with mental illness (p = 0.078) had a direct effect on the African American clergy attitudes toward parishioners seeking professional mental health services. This research supports the idea that conservative African American pastors' attitudes toward congregants seeking professional mental health services are positive. The results of this study can influence social change by increasing access through clergy's pivotal role as the gatekeeper for parishioners who seek help for mental illness.