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Help-seeking attitudes and psychological symptoms of African college students in United States colleges and universities

Pius Kwame Essandoh, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The purpose of this study was to identify self-reported psychological symptoms of African college students in five colleges and universities in Western Massachusetts. The question was whether the severity of the self-reported symptoms would predict help-seeking attitudes. The study also investigated whether sociodemographic variables and the extent of acculturation correlated with help-seeking attitudes and symptoms reported. In addition, this study also identified the African students' preference for and use of counseling services on college and university campuses. The Brief Symptoms Inventory, (Derogatis 1975) was used to collect data on self-reported symptoms of psychological distress. Fischer and Turner's (1970) Attitude Toward Seeking Professional Psychological Help scale was used to measure help-seeking attitudes. To measure levels of acculturation among African students, a modified version of Ceullar and Jaso's (1980) Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexican Americans was used. Subjects were ninety African college students (65 males, 25 females) enrolled in undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral programs in colleges and universities in western Massachusetts. Students were identified through foreign student offices and the African Student's Association. The data obtained included a completed score on the Brief Symptoms Inventory and the Student Attitude Scale from each student. Correlations were computed for students' responses on both instruments. No statistically significant gender differences were found in the self-reported symptoms. Although African college students reported higher levels of depression, anxiety and paranoid ideation compared to the normative sample symptom severity does not necessarily predict a positive help-seeking attitude. The level of acculturation, however, was a fairly good predictor of positive attitude toward seeking professional help. It was also evident from this research that informal sources of counseling (e.g. use of foreign student advisors) were preferred over established counseling and mental health centers. It was therefore suggested that counseling centers tap this unique resource and also expand outreach programs to reach African college students. Based on these findings, it was suggested that American Embassies in African countries make pre-departure counseling a component of their services to African students. Also orientation programs on arrival should address perceived needs of African college students and direct them to available services on campus.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Essandoh, Pius Kwame, "Help-seeking attitudes and psychological symptoms of African college students in United States colleges and universities" (1992). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9219427.