Original Article

CME Article: Barriers to Mental Health Care Identified by Sexual and Gender Minority Individuals in Georgia and South Carolina

Authors: Elizabeth K. Pryor, BSEd, Margaret Tyre, BS, Susan Brands, MD, Ryan E. Flinn, PhD, Lara M. Stepleman, PhD, Natalie R. Holt, PhD


Objective: Geographic location can affect access to appropriate, affirming mental health care for sexual and gender minority (SGM) individuals, especially for those living in rural settings. Minimal research has examined barriers to mental health care for SGM communities in the southeastern United States. The objective of this study was to identify and characterize perceived barriers to obtaining mental health care for SGM individuals living in an underserved geographic area.

Methods: Drawing from a health needs survey of SGM communities in Georgia and South Carolina, 62 participants provided qualitative responses describing barriers they encountered to accessing mental health care when needed in the previous year. Four coders used a grounded theory approach to identify themes and summarize the data.

Results: Three themes of barriers to care emerged: personal resource barriers, personal intrinsic factors, and healthcare system barriers. Participants described barriers that can inhibit access to mental health care regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, such as finances or lack of knowledge about services, but several of the identified barriers intersect with SGM-related stigma or may be magnified by participants’ location in an underserved region of the southeastern United States.

Conclusions: SGM individuals living in Georgia and South Carolina endorsed several barriers to receiving mental health services. Personal resource and intrinsic barriers were the most common, but healthcare system barriers were present as well. Some participants described simultaneously encountering multiple barriers, illustrating that these factors can interact in complex ways to affect SGM individuals’ mental health help seeking.
Posted in: Mental Health42

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