October 25, 2007

Mental Health Awareness and Multicultural Approaches

A new story out of South Africa discusses multicultural perspectives of mental illness, i.e., as expected, the view and treatment of mental illness can vary from culture to culture. In the United States, May has been deemed Mental Health Awareness Month for the last fifty years. In South Africa, however, October is Mental Health Awareness Month, "and this year's focus is on how different cultures view mental health issues."

The story discusses migration and its effect on the treatment and view of mental illness; for example, it states "three percent of the global population or 1 in 35 people is an international migrant." When considering this number in the context of health care, specifically mental health care, the problem of cultural barriers seems eminent. The story points out, in some cultures, shame is associated with a diagnosis of mental illness. Thus, people who belong to these cultures and suffer from mental illness may be reluctant to seek a confirmed diagnosis and treatment from a health care professional. Exacerbating this problem is a lack of cultural awareness or education on the part of the mental health care professional. As the story states, there is a solution: cross-cultural education and awareness.

"The role of the mental health care providers is to raise awareness on such issues and to ensure a merge between cultural practices and Western practices when it comes to diagnosis, assessment and treatment of mental disability. We need to form an alliance with traditional healers, spiritual leaders and religious leaders in order to work together for mental health."

Source: Daily News (South Africa), Surviving the Global Village
More Information on Mental Health Awareness
Stigma and Mental Illness


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