Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Fall 10-12-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice


Charlene Desir

Committee Member

Lisa J. Carbone


low income, black youth, mental health seeking, phenomenology


Prior research and recent statistics regarding Black youth help-seeking behaviors, use, and access to mental health services suggest that those students with the greatest need for mental health services cannot access them or experience barriers to access. Although educational stakeholders have supported implementing and using school-based mental health services to promote students' overall access to services, low-income Black youth are still underserved. Therefore, additional research was warranted exploring the barriers and facilitators associated with help-seeking behaviors, use, and access to mental healthcare services by low-income Black youth, emphasizing those elements that acted as facilitators and were outside previously identified individual and interpersonal factors.

A qualitative study using a phenomenological design was employed to explore the perceptions of 10 mental health practitioners in government-funded equity programs in Massachusetts to identify the barriers and facilitators of mental health help-seeking behaviors, use, and access of low-income Black youth. Ten semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants purposefully recruited into the study using LinkedIn and recorded using the Zoom platform. Member checking was employed to bolster the trustworthiness of the research findings, and interpretative phenomenological analysis was conducted to analyze the data.

Data analysis revealed five themes associated with low-income Black youths’ mental health help-seeking behaviors, access, and use. Namely, participants suggested low-income Black youth show mental health help-seeking behaviors and have access to but do not use mental health services as frequently as their White counterparts. Further, awareness, interpersonal relationships, Black cultural norms, stigma, school culture, staff multicultural awareness, availability of school accommodations, and the presence of absence of racism within schools were suggested to significantly impact low-income Black youths’ mental health help-seeking behaviors, access, and use. Therefore, facilitators of mental health help-seeking behaviors, access, and use were associated with increased literacy (awareness), relationships with friends and family wherein mental health use is accepted, communities wherein the stigma associated with using mental health services is reduced, and schools where a mental health culture is bolstered, staff are trained in multicultural awareness, many accommodations are available for low-income Black students to gain access and use, and schools with a reduced prevalence of racism. A discussion and future research recommendations are discussed in the final chapter.

Available for download on Saturday, October 12, 2024

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