“We Don’t Talk about That”: Mental Health Promotion by Parents in African American Communities



Watkins, Tyler Andrew

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This research investigates parental promotion of mental health in African American communities. This study uses Communication Privacy Management theory (CPM) (Petronio, 1991) and Systems theory (Von Bertalanffy, 1972), in order to explore the motivations and attitude formations of adolescent mental health at the parental level. In essence, this study plans to explore the intersections between generational communication, race, and mental health. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 10 African American parents; gauging perception and past interactions with adolescent mental health. Results indicated African American parents show knowledge gaps and understanding of mental illness and mental health services. Major findings of this study unearthed relationships between the Black Church, generational education, and collective awareness of mental health in the African American community. Most of the participating parents acknowledged the heighten visibility of mental illness in modern society; however, many parents failed to acknowledge a connection between race and mental health. These findings suggest a multitude of influences at play during the disclosure and promotion of mental health by African American parents and adolescents. Robinson (2012) posits, “Telling a [relational member] you have depression allows for the [member] to either reject you or offer support. It may allow for the understanding of depression as a disease, or it may open the door for insensitive remarks which may be detrimental to the relationship” (p. 1). By highlighting familial relationships during the disclosure process, potential tensions arise, complicated further by the addition of race.



African American, Health communication, Mental health, Parents