Through their eyes : a narrative case study highlighting the lived experiences of African American male college students with low help-seeking behaviors.


Mental health difficulties continue to rise on college campuses. However, students are not seeking help at the same rate. Hubbard et al. (2018) reported that only 8% to 38% of students seek help for mental health concerns despite potential academic interruption. Disparities in seeking help for mental health difficulties is even greater in the African American community. Schwitzer et al. (2018) reported “… on average 10.3% of students served by counseling centers were African American and 66.7% were white” (p. 6). However, the problem is that African Americans are 20% more likely to suffer from psychological difficulties, they are among the population with the greatest rate of low help-seeking behaviors (Snyder, 2020). Thus, the purpose of the study was to gain a better understanding of the lived experiences of African American males as a means of understanding the past, current, and possible future predicting factors that perpetuate and exacerbate low help-seeking behaviors. To highlight the problem and operationalize the purpose, the researcher implemented a narrative case study design. Utilizing the selected design allowed the researcher to engage participants in “… telling, retelling, and reliving stories” (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990, p. 4). In doing so, the researcher achieved a primary goal of providing African American males with a voice. African American male participants (n=4) for the current study were selected based on a criterion sampling strategy and ranged in age from 18–29. Participants engaged in one 60-minute semi-structured interview via zoom and one 30-minute follow-up call. All participant interviews were recorded, securely stored, and uploaded to as a means of obtaining a detailed transcript. Data were analyzed using appropriate qualitative data analysis procedures inclusive of coding, thematic analysis and cross case analysis. Three overarching themes, Lack of Trust, Family and Upbringing, and Societal Pressures emerged from the participant interviews as the main predicting factors for their low help-seeking behaviors. The findings were consistent with the findings identified in pre-existing literature. To conclude, the implications for the current study highlighted practical and transformative strategies to better identify and engage African Americans males with mental health concerns into therapeutic services.



Help-seeking behaviors. Mental health. African American males. Black mental health.