CMGMH Newsletter Feature: How Culture Impacts Mental Health

August 01, 2019

The "CMGMH Connection," a regular newsletter published by team members in the Center for Multicultural and Global Mental Health (CMGMH) landed in subscriber inboxes in Mid-July. July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and several of the articles in the June/July edition explored this theme. One article from the publication is highlighted below or, to read the full newsletter, visit the CMGMH online newsletter archive.

How Culture Impacts Mental Health

Cultural norms, belief systems, values and practices play an important role in understanding the ways in which individuals define and make sense of their symptoms, the strategies that they use to cope with their ailments, and how and where they are likely seek help for their physical and mental illnesses. Thus, it is critical for providers to be knowledgeable about the culture of their patients and its potential impacts on mental health care Here are four ways in which culture impacts mental health (MentalHealthFirstAid.org):  

  • 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 with a mental illness to talk openly and ask for help.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Resources: It can be challenging or time-consuming to find resources and treatment options that take into account a person’s cultural heritage and needs. However, when looking for mental health treatment, it is important to talk to someone who understands one’s specific experiences and concerns.

Read the full newsletter here.