Erin Henshaw

Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School


Committee Member

Carol R. Freedman-Doan, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

Michelle R. Byrd, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Heather A. Flynn, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Knapp, Ph.D.


Effective treatment for maternal depression improves overall maternal functioning and prevents the negative infant outcomes associated with maternal depression (Verduyn et al., 2003). Despite the clear benefits associated with treatment for perinatal depression, less than one third of depressed women seek any form of treatment (Flynn et al, 2006). The Health Belief Model (HBM) has received some support for other health-promoting behaviors, but its relevance for explaining mental health help-seeking has not been adequately tested. This study adds to the literature by simultaneously providing a more comprehensive and adequate test of the HBM in predicting mental health treatment for depression while also further explicating predictors of treatment use among perinatal women, a particularly vulnerable and important population. Mental health treatment-seeking has traditionally been defined as a visit to a mental health professional or physician; however, it is likely that many women engage in more informal treatments for their depressive symptoms. Thus, in the current study, we expanded this view to include both formal treatment-seeking, as traditionally defined, as well as informal treatment-seeking such as reading a self-help book, searching for information online, or speaking with a trusted friend or family member. Current use of informal and formal treatment interventions was assessed to determine how perceptions of depression and its treatment predicted treatment-seeking for depression in pregnancy. Participants were recruited from urban and suburban obstetric clinics in southeast Michigan. A total of 459 pregnant women were initially screened for elevated depressive symptoms. Within this sample, 110 participants reporting elevated depressive symptoms were administered a survey regarding their perceptions of depression and its treatment based on the HBM. It was hypothesized that five factors of the HBM (perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, perceived barriers, perceived benefits, and cues to action) would predict the frequency of formal and informal treatment-seeking among participants. Associations between perceptions and mental health treatment-seeking were assessed through hierarchical multiple regression. Results indicate that previous treatment, perceived benefits of treatment, and cues to action were significantly related to treatment-seeking behaviors, partially supporting the HBM.