• African American women;
  • beliefs about mental illness;
  • attitudes about mental illness;
  • stigma;
  • coping behaviors


We examined African American women's representations/beliefs about mental illness, preferred coping behaviors if faced with mental illness, whether perceived stigma was associated with treatment-seeking, and if so, whether it was related to beliefs and coping preference, and whether these variables differed by age group. Participants were 185 community-dwelling African American women 25 to 85 years of age. Results indicated the women believed that mental illness is caused by several factors, including family-related stress and social stress due to racism, is cyclical, and has serious consequences but can be controlled by treatment. Participants endorsed low perceptions of stigma. Major preferred coping strategies included praying and seeking medical and mental health care. Age differences were found in all variables except stigma. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Res Nurs Health 32:480–492, 2009