Toward a cultural adaptation of pharmacotherapy: LatinO views of depression and antidepressant therapy

Sylvanna M. Vargas, Leopoldo J. Cabassa, Andel Nicasio, Ana Alicia de la Cruz, Elizabeth Jackson, Melissa Rosario, Peter J. Guarnaccia, Roberto Lewis-Fernández

Publication Date: 07/01/2015

Relative to non-Latino Whites, Latinos in the United States with major depressive disorder (MDD) show low engagement in antidepressant therapy, whether engagement is defined as pharmacotherapy access, medication initiation, pill-taking, or treatment retention. One potential reason for this disparity in depression care is the low cultural congruence of pharmacotherapy for this population. To examine Latinos’ views of depression and antidepressant therapy, we conducted qualitative interviews with 30 Latino outpatients initiating antidepressants prior to their first treatment visit using the semistructured Treatment Adherence and Retention Questionnaire. These baseline interviews were randomly selected from data collected for a randomized controlled trial testing a novel intervention to enhance engagement by depressed Latino outpatients. Participant narratives were analyzed using open coding and the iterative analytical approach derived from grounded theory. Patient views about depression addressed stigmatizing views held by others in their social circle. Most participants directly refuted these views by providing alternate explanations to depression experiences. Antidepressant therapy narratives also revealed marked stigmatization, but participants tended not to refute these views. Instead, patients expressed concerns about antidepressants and showed marked ambivalence about seeking psychiatric care. Participants, however, did suggest ways in which clinicians and patients might collaborate to address their concerns about antidepressants. Some cultural views, such as concerns about addiction to or dependence on medication, may be negotiable barriers to treatment. Prescribing clinicians should address cultural views and concerns in order to improve Latino engagement in antidepressant therapy.