Research suggests that there is a high level of stigma surrounding mental illness in the English-speaking Caribbean, limited knowledge about aetiology and scepticism about the effectiveness of treatment. Further, in spite of experiencing symptoms of distress, a growing body of literature has suggested that Caribbean nationals hold negative attitudes toward seeking professional psychological help. It has been suggested that these attitudes may be even more negative than for other populations. This paper presents the results of two studies which sought to examine this assumption. It was hypothesized that Jamaicans would hold more negative attitudes toward seeking professional mental health services than samples from other populations. Data regarding attitudes toward seeking professional psychological help were collected from 339 Jamaican adolescents. In study 1, a review of the literature was conducted.
Three published studies that utilized the same measure of help-seeking attitudes, had a sample similar in age, and published their sample size, means and standard deviations, which were compared to the Jamaican sample. In study 2, data from the Jamaican sample were compared to a sample of African-American adolescents (n = 81). Results did not support the hypothesis. Jamaicans were generally found to be either similar or more positive in their attitudes toward seeking professional psychological help. These encouraging results are discussed. Suggestions for improving education and reducing mental health stigma are presented.