CULTURAL AND SEX DIFFERENCES IN ATTITUDES TOWARDS RELIGIOSITY, MENTAL HEALTH STIGMA, AND PSYCHOTROPIC MEDICATION USE: SAUDI ARABIAN VS AMERICAN COLLEGE STUDENTS
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Rationale: The present study investigated cultural and sex differences in attitudes towards religiosity, mental health stigma, and psychotropic medication use between Saudi Arabian and American college students. The research was conducted to find out whether religiosity is a barrier to seeking mental health treatment due to the stigma associated with mental health issues. Also, the preference for or against psychotropic medication was investigated in the two culturally diverse populations. Methods: Nationality and sex differences in self-stigma associated with mental health issues were examined in 604 college students, 509 Saudi Arabian and 95 American, males and females, 18 years and older. Saudi Arabian college students were recruited through an anonymous online survey tool from official Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission (SACM) and academic clubs in the U.S. American college students were recruited through the same site link, which was sent through snowballing, social media, and official emails from the psychology department at their university. All participants filled out three anonymous questionnaires online: The Belief into Action (BIAC) scale (Koenig, Wang, Al Zaben ،& Adi, 2015), Self-Stigma Associated with Seeking Psychological Help (SSOSH) scale (Vogel et al., 2006), and a demographic questionnaire which included questions on psychotropic medication and social change issues directed only to Saudi Arabian students. Results: 1) Saudi Arabian students were significantly more religious than American students. 2) A significant association existed between the level of religiosity and the level of self-stigma for both populations. 3) There was no significant difference in the preference for psychotropic medication use between the two populations. 4) Significant nationality and sex differences existed between the two nationalities but in directions opposite to those predicted. The most RELIGIOSITY, STIGMA, AND PSYCHOTROPIC MEDICATION USE 6 significant findings indicated that males of both populations had more self-stigma than females from both populations. Implications: In light of our findings and recent social changes in Saudi Arabia, more educational funding should be directed to train Saudi Arabian females as mental health professionals at all levels. Also, it was suggested that in Saudi Arabia, mental health services should be offered by primary care physicians to limit stigma. Limitations: The study discussed limitations concerning unequal sample sizes and limitations on generalizing findings beyond the specific populations tested. Future research needs to explore the relationship between religion, altruism, and mental health stigma.