Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Nursing

Dissertation Committee

Jane M. Georges, PhD, RN, Chairperson; Cynthia D. Connelly, PhD, RN, FAAN Committee Member; Semira Semino-Asaro, PhD, PMHCNS-BC, PMHNP-BC Committee Member


Mental health, Veterans



Background: African Americans are 10 percent more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic whites (National Center for Health Statistics, 2018). Previous studies found African Americans use mental health services less than other race/ethnicities. Additionally, African American males are less likely to seek help for mental health issues regardless of the severity and range of these issues. Those who do are at risk of dropping out of treatment (Hudson et al., 2016). In addition, the status of being a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces places persons at particular risk for needing mental health services. Thus, the current need to provide African American male veterans (AAMVs) with mental health services is particularly acute and remains an understudied area. (Hom et al., 2017.). The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study is to explore the lived experiences of AAMVs as they access and utilize mental health services.

Lines of Inquiry: The specific lines of inquiry of the study are to describe how AAMV’s: 1) Perceive their experiences of seeking of mental health treatment; 2) Perceive mental health treatment providers; and 3) Perceive possible barriers to continued mental health treatment.

Methods: This study used a qualitative phenomenological method to explore experiences and feelings of African-American males as they access and utilize mental health services. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory of human development was used as a lens to organize thematically the expressed lived experiences of the participants. A systematic collection of the participants’ recollections was analyzed using the phenomenological method.

Results: The findings of this research study support the importance of family and peer support when initiating services, but also the importance of feeling supported by the military, while they are active duty to initiate an engage in mental health treatment. The findings further showed feeling their clinician was actively engaged in the session, by showing active listening skills, encouraged the AAMVs to discuss their problems more freely. AAMVs report they feel they need to be listened to and taken as an individual as a factor in their decision to continue or to return to care.

Clinical Implications: The need to connect veterans of any gender or race/ethnicity to mental health care treatment and to reduce the burden of mental illness in this population is substantial (Hom et al., 2017). In particular, this study provides a greater understanding of the lived experiences of AAMVs in accessing mental health treatments, thus filling a gap in the current knowledge base of this area.

Document Type

Dissertation: USD Users Only