UMDNJ - Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Psychiatrists Conduct Study that Defines Perceived Stigma Among Latinos Receiving Antidepressants and Shows How It May Impact Their Treatment
PISCATAWAY—A recent study focusing on the perception of stigma among Latinos receiving antidepressants could ultimately lead to improved care for depression among this minority population.
The study yielded descriptions of perceived stigmas and showed Latinos apprehend negative associations and social consequences related to diagnosis of depression and use of antidepressant medication.
Dr. Alejandro Interian, assistant professor of psychiatry with The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey - Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Dr. Javier I. Escobar, professor and chair of the department of psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; and Dr. Peter J. Guarnaccia, adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, were among the co-authors of a paper reporting those results.
"A Qualitative Analysis of the Perception of Stigma Among Latinos Receiving Antidepressants," appears in the December issue of Psychiatric Services, a journal of the American Psychiatric Association.
Click here to view the full text.
Dr. Interian, the study’s lead investigator, said the issue of stigma, especially with antidepressants, is seen across the board, but, because they vary among cultural groups, it's important to define stigmas specific to each group -to improve our ability to provide mental health care to diverse patients."
"This paper gives this population a voice and tells us what the issues are for them," Dr. Interian said. "By understanding these issues, we can better respond to them during counseling."
Six focus groups were conducted between April and August of 2006. Participants were Latinos receiving treatment for depression. All 30 were recruited from a community mental health center. The group consisted mostly of women from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico.
"Issues of stigma frequently occurred in participants’ descriptions of their experiences with antidepressants," researchers reported in the paper.
Among the noted findings were:
- of the adherence complications, stigma ranked second only to drug side effects among a majority of participants;
- antidepressant use was seen as implying more severe illness, weaknesses or failure to cope with problems, and subjecting oneself to a drug-induced state;
- the stigma of antidepressant use implied social deficiencies and left patients fearing social consequences;
- and stigma was a prominent concern among Latinos receiving antidepressants and often affected adherence.
Dr. Interian said this study is part of a larger, national effort to better understand the impact of culture on mental health care. He's currently involved in a new study, which is funded by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant, examining how stigma predicts utilization of depression treatments among Latinos. This new study will measure stigma through a questionnaire developed with the knowledge about stigmas gained from the 2006 study, he said.
Such research is significant because racial and ethnic minorities historically have been left out of the mental health research that's been conducted, Dr. Interian said.
Their research group has focused its clinical studies on examining the efficacy of behavioral treatments among Latino populations, he explained.
Ultimately, findings from the stigma study can lead to development of training, “where we can go to primary care physicians and come up with an approach to help them anticipate whether some of these issues are present and how to address them,” Dr. Interian said.
To interview Dr. Interian, please contact Zenaida Mendez at (973) 972-3000.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.