Date of Award

6-2016

Document Type

Project

Degree Name

Master of Social Work

Department

School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Shon, Herb

Abstract

It’s been more than a decade since the National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI) initiated its public campaign, ‘Real Men Real Depression.’ Despite increased awareness, research and relevant studies indicate that African American / Black men continue to underutilize mental health treatment while still having the highest all-cause mortality rates of any racial/ ethnic group in the United States. When reading this statement, one must question what impact that the beliefs about ‘social workers’ through the lens of Black males in the United States, may play. This very simply, yet flammable, question not only seems pertinent but also seems to warrant further exploration due to the research that shows that service access and help-seeking by African-American males across the lifespan is significantly lower than that of their non-Black counterparts. That same research seems to make assumptions about why this is, however it is only responsible and ethical, given the National Association of Social workers’ (NASW) Code of Ethics calling for cultural competence in practice, that we challenge and test the rationales being offered.

This study was exploratory in nature, employed a snowball sampling methodology, and utilized an electronic survey offered through social media and promoted by word of mouth, targeting Black males over the age of 18, to assess their overall knowledge about being a social worker, and their beliefs and perceptions about social workers and how they believe social workers perceive them. The goal of this study was to begin to explore the reasons for overwhelming statistics that speak to the fact that Black males do not access mental health services, especially those provided by social workers. A total of 59 were started, and 43 completed, by the target respondents, which included a 5-item scale, to assess basic knowledge about social workers, a 10-item scale to assess the general beliefs about social workers, and 13-item scale to assess the beliefs about the perceptions of social workers about Black males. Univariate and bivariate analyses were performed using SPSS, and the results revealed that although there was a moderate level of general knowledge about social workers, the general belief of the respondents were primarily negative, with their beliefs about how social workers see Black males was just slightly more positive. These results seemed to be across the board and were not shown to be correlated with level of education, income, or whether they has received direct services provided by social workers or had no affiliation with such services. What did seem to have some relevance was an overall negative belief about social workers, and a level of suspicion and distrust for how their information would be used, as evidenced by 16 respondents who started the survey but would not completed it.

In keeping with the NASW Code of Ethics, recommendation are provided to helps clinicians and those social workers providing direct service, be informed of the suspicions and apprehensions among this population, while encouraging the importance of continuous learning and increasing of cultural competence, awareness and humility. Lastly, recommendations for future research are also provided for the same purposes.