Date of Conferral

2018

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Social Work

Advisor

Jeanna Jacobsen

Abstract

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals are often exposed to stressors based on their nonheterosexual status; they may have unique needs related to help-seeking for mental health in a rural area where more people identify as religious or as politically conservative. To date, there have been no studies on the mental health help-seeking experiences of LGB individuals in rural Northern Michigan. This qualitative, single case study was completed to explore the help-seeking experiences of 10 LGB individuals who were recruited through criterion and snowball sampling. In-depth, semi structured interviews were conducted. Transcribed interview data were entered into Nvivo software for coding and then examined through two perspectives: Meyer's minority stress theory and Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory. Thematic analysis identified three themes: (a) reasons for seeking treatment, which included experiences of distal stressors and proximal stress reactions, (b) experiences with the help-seeking process, and (c) suggestions for improving the help-seeking process. Findings of the study were that distal stressors increased feelings of isolation and â??otherness.â?? When individuals sought help, they encountered barriers related to lack of resource options, lack of acceptance or feelings of passivity. This created a sense of distrust with providers, thus affecting future help-seeking. The results of this study draw attention to LGB population in rural Northern Michigan, who may be inadequately treated based on little community acceptance, few provider options, and negative provider reactions. The knowledge generated from this study could lead to improved services and reduce the aforementioned disparities for this population.

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