According to research published by The Commonwealth Fund, minorities in the United States are less likely to get mental health treatment or will wait until symptoms are severe before looking due to stigma surrounding culture and mental health. In fact, only 66 percent of minority adults have a regular health care provider compared to 80 percent of white adults. Hispanic and Asian populations report the lowest rates of having a regular doctor or provider, at 58 percent and 60 percent.

Signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary

Signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary

It’s important that we understand the role culture plays in mental health care so we can support our loved ones and encourage treatment when it’s needed most.

Here are four ways culture can impact mental health: 

  1. Cultural stigma. Every culture has a different way of looking at mental health. For many, there is growing stigma around mental health, and mental health challenges are considered a weakness and something to hide. This can make it harder for those struggling to talk openly and ask for help.
  2. Understanding symptoms. Culture can influence how people describe and feel about their symptoms. It can affect whether someone chooses to recognize and talk about only physical symptoms, only emotional symptoms or both.
  3. Community Support. Cultural factors can determine how much support someone gets from their family and community when it comes to mental health. Because of existing stigma, minorities are sometimes left to find mental health treatment and support alone.
  4. Resources. When looking for mental health treatment, you want to talk to someone who understands your specific experiences and concerns. It can sometimes be difficult or time-consuming to find resources and treatment options that take into account specific cultures factors and needs.

These are only a few ways culture can impact the perception of and treatment for mental health. Every culture and person is different and face a unique journey to recovery.

You can help address the mental health of minorities by understanding the role culture plays in mental health and by becoming trained to help those around you. Mental Health First Aid gives people the skills to identify signs of mental health and substance use challenges and action steps to take to help them get treatment. Find a Mental Health First Aid course near you and #BeTheDifference in the life of someone who may need your support today.

Culture and Mental Health Project (Outline and Paper): Students will complete a culture and mental health research project for the course. This project will involve choosing a mental health condition that has a culturally specific manifestation (idiom of distress or culture bound syndrome) or a mental health condition (broadly defined) that develops from, or is shaped by, a social/cultural/behavioral process. Students will complete a detailed outline of their paper and complete a final paper on their chosen topic. The outline and paper will reflect a detailed review of the literature focused on the mental health problem, a review of culturally-specific aspects of the problem, and potential (culturally appropriate) methods of addressing the problem. Example titles of projects are ‘Globalization and farmer suicides among rural Kenyan men, ‘The legacy of colonialism on substance abuse in the Caribbean’, or ‘Suicide among Information Technology workers in Bangalore, India’.

Paper Outline is due April 27th at 11:59pm via Canvas online submission. The Outline should be 4-5 pages in length, single spaced, and contain a references list with at least 5 relevant peer review articles or books to be discussed in the presentation and final paper. This assignment will be used to evaluate the adequacy of the topic area and if alterations need to be made. Instructors will provide feedback on the topics and suggest changes if needed. Completing the Outline is worth 15% of your overall grade. In order to receive credit, the outline must sufficiently meet the assignment requirements outlined in the syllabus and reviewed in class.

Please use the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) citation style. A guide for JAMA style can be found here: AmericanMedicalAssociationStyleJAMA.pdf