African Americans disproportionately experience psychological distress, such as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness and are disproportionately exposed to risk factors associated with mental illness, such as racial discrimination, violence and poverty. To effectively address African Americans’ mental health needs, it is imperative to identify who
African Americans turn to when they experience stressors. The purpose of this study was to assess the extent to which emotional support is provided within African Americans’ social networks and determine the characteristics of social network members who African Americans rely upon for emotional support. Results indicate that African Americans rely on social network members for spiritual and physical health support more so than emotional support. Among both male and female participants, social network members were significantly more likely to be relied upon for emotional support if they were a non-familial network contact, had a close relationship to the participant, and if they also were someone the participant spoke to about his or her physical health. Findings have implications for the development of culturally-sensitive strategies for increasing emotional support provision within African Americans’ social networks.
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