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Is There Cultural Bias Associated With Mental Health?

Author: Nishi Patel

Personal Experience with Cultural Bias and Mental Health

Coming from a cultural background where mental health conversations are highly stigmatized, I constantly wonder about the taboo surrounding it. Much to my dismay, a great amount of disgrace is associated with mental health within the Indian community. This negativity often stems from a lack of education, prevalent misconceptions, and a general fear of the subject. Many who make assumptions about mental illness are usually either afraid of its implications or simply unaware of the situation. This ignorance is not entirely their fault; society is to blame for fostering such a misleading perspective on mental illness by often rejecting or disapproving of those who might be suffering from it. It deeply saddens me to think about my own society's views on something so evident and significant in many people's lives. These views can severely affect individuals dealing with mental health issues in Indian communities, usually making them ashamed or afraid to seek help and feel as though they are at fault and that their experiences are trivial. However, these experiences are far from trivial. Our emotions, feelings, and mental health are important.

It's not just Indian people who face stigma around mental health; many other Asian cultures, including Chinese and Japanese, as well as Hispanic cultures, share this dismissive view. They believe mental health issues can be dangerous and may prevent individuals from achieving societal goals and expectations. Often, the help available in such countries is limited, and family disapproval only exacerbates the problem. In high school, I read "72 Hour Hold" by Bebe Moore Campbell for my American Literature and Diversity class. This novel, about an African American mother struggling to secure mental health support for her daughter despite repeated releases from facilities and societal stigma, authentically portrays the challenges of navigating mental health issues with insufficient resources and the impact on families.

Cultural biases can shape the stigma around mental health, influence the availability and type of mental health care, and affect individuals' willingness to seek help. Here are several ways in which cultural bias manifests in the context of mental health:


Varied Acceptance: In many cultures, mental health issues are heavily stigmatized, leading to a lack of discussion and acknowledgment. This can prevent individuals from seeking help due to fear of judgment or ostracization.

Misunderstanding and Misrepresentation: Cultural stereotypes often influence the perception of mental illnesses, sometimes portraying them as weaknesses or moral failings rather than medical conditions.

Impact on Treatment

Differences in Treatment Approaches: Cultural beliefs can dictate which treatments are deemed acceptable or effective. For example, some cultures might prefer traditional healing practices over Western medical treatments for mental health.

Barriers to Access: Language barriers, lack of cultural competence among healthcare providers, and mistrust in the medical system can hinder access to mental health services for people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Influence on Recognition and Diagnosis

Symptom Expression: Cultural differences in expressing distress can lead to underdiagnosis or misdiagnosis of mental health conditions. What is considered a symptom in one culture may not be recognized as such in another.

Cultural Competence in Healthcare: The lack of cultural sensitivity and awareness among healthcare professionals can contribute to disparities in mental health outcomes.

Social and Family Dynamics

Family and Community Expectations: In some cultures, family and social expectations can place intense pressure on individuals, impacting their mental health. Admitting to struggling with mental health issues might be seen as bringing shame to the family.

Interdependence vs. Independence: Cultural norms around individualism versus collectivism can affect how mental health issues are understood and addressed. In more collectivist societies, the emphasis might be on the well-being of the group rather than on individual mental health needs.

Efforts to Address Cultural Bias

Addressing cultural bias in mental health requires a multifaceted approach, including:

Increasing Cultural Competence: Training for healthcare providers to understand and respect cultural differences in mental health perspectives and treatment preferences.

Community-Based Initiatives: Programs tailored to specific cultural communities can help increase awareness and reduce stigma.

Inclusive Policies: Developing mental health policies that consider the needs and beliefs of diverse cultural groups.

Most people would agree that we spend a lot of time in our minds, which is why it's crucial to ensure it's a place we're happy to be in. Prioritizing mental health can reduce stress and anxiety, leading to a happier, more fulfilling life characterized by healthy choices and improved self and interpersonal relationships. Starting awareness campaigns in schools, colleges, and workplaces is essential to combating the stigma surrounding mental health. Only with informed and aware communities can we hope to foster better understanding and judgment regarding mental health issues.

Are you experiencing mental health issues and need to talk with a professional? Contact Thrive Counseling today!

About Thrive Counseling

We are offering counseling, home-based and group programs through telephone or online through ZOOM. Call us for your mental health & substance use needs! Call Warren, (330) 469-6777 or Youngstown, (330) 355-9998 TODAY!

Anyone can call for assistance or support. Assessments are based on the individuals' needs and what will work best for them. Thrive can provide immediate assistance for mental health crisis situations. Medicaid and most other insurances are accepted.

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