Talking Is Hard: A Mixed-Methods Exploration of Factors Associated with Communication about Mental Health Issues among Black College Students

Minhao Dai, Kennesaw State University
Delani Morgan, SUNY Oswego


This study seeks to understand how communicative and sociocultural factors influence Black college students’ previous interpersonal communication about mental health issues and current intention to do so. Previous research found that Black individuals preferred to address mental health issues interpersonally within the family or with trusted others rather than to seek professional help. This mixed-methods study conducted formative interviews and a cross-sectional survey with Black college students from three public universities. The theory of planned behavior (TPB) measures were utilized to examine the relevant communicative and sociocultural factors. Previous interpersonal communication about mental health with others was low among Black college students, and there was a significant gap between current intention and previous behaviors. The results highlight the difficulties of “simply talking” about mental health issues. They also indicate the importance of “showing through behavior,” as the descriptive norm referents were the strongest influencers of both intention and behavior. Practical implications for community and campus-based interventions to improve mental wellness among Black college students were discussed.