Barriers and facilitators to mental health help-seeking among African American youth and their families: A systematic review study

Arrianna M. Planey, Shardé Mc Neil Smith, Stephanie Moore, Taylor D. Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is well documented that African American/Black youth underutilize mental health services. Thus, the aim of this narrative systematic review study was to examine the barriers to, and facilitators of, mental health help-seeking and service utilization for Black youth. The research team conducted a systematic review of qualitative and quantitative studies published from January 2000 to May 2017. Articles were included if they reported (i) barriers and/or facilitators of mental health help-seeking or outpatient mental health service use for Black youth and (ii) non-aggregated findings on African American or Black youth aged 18 and under. Fifteen articles (six quantitative, eight qualitative, and one mixed-method) met the inclusion criteria. Seven themes related to barriers were identified: child-related factors; clinician and therapeutic factors; stigma; religion and spirituality; treatment affordability, availability, and accessibility; the school system; and social network. Seven themes were also identified for facilitators: child mental health concerns; caregivers' experiences; supportive social network; positive therapeutic factors; religion and spirituality; referrals and mandates by parents and gatekeepers; and geographic region. Taken together, the identified barriers to and facilitators of mental health help-seeking among Black youth were multi-scalar (individual-, interpersonal-, and structural-level) and socially-embedded, reflecting help-seeking and service use for Black youth as a complex, contextual, and relational process. Findings support the need for reducing barriers of mental health care access and service use among a population whose need often outstrips actual use of services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-200
Number of pages11
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • African American/Black
  • Barriers
  • Facilitators
  • Mental health services
  • Systematic review
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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