Cultural Differences In Mental Health Research

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The DSM (IV-TR) identifies depressive symptoms as having a depressed mood most of the day, diminished interest or pleasure in all or most activities, significant unintentional weight loss or gain, insomnia or sleeping too much, agitation or psychomotor retardation noticed by others, fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, recurrent thoughts of death or suicide (Carson. R et al, 2008). The DSM- IV (1994) also states that, culture can influence depressive symptoms e.g. in many Asian countries, depression is often manifested through complaints of weakness, tiredness or imbalance, rather than feelings of guilt, difficulty concentrating etc. This then …show more content…

Studies have also found that South Asians seem to not improve with treatment as much as other Asian groups (Ying and Hu, 1994). The reasons for this difference are many; it has been found that minorities in treatment may often not have access to mental health services, and/or they may receive a poorer quality of treatment. Minorities are also underrepresented in mental health research, which would lead to lack of knowledge of culture specific disorders, or culture specific symptoms of disorders, making it difficult to diagnose their disorders (U.S public health services, 2001). Cultural beliefs regarding how to deal with components of mental illness may be contrary to what professional helpers may require people to do. This may cause suspicion and confusion and may further dissuade people from seeking professional help, preferring to keep to their traditional practices. E.g. African Americans are encouraged to rely on themselves and their will power rather than seek help from outside sources (Browman, 1996). Native Americans believe that sickness is the result of disharmony with oneself, community and nature, and thus mental health services would not be of much use, since they rarely focus on these aspects of one’s life (Tolman and Reedy, 1998). Besides influencing our perception of mental illness, culture also influences whether or not people seek treatment, and who they decide to seek treatment from. Who people will go to for treatment, will depend on what the cause of mental illness is perceived as, e.g. if the cause for the disorder is seen as being due to God’s wrath or evil spirits, people may be inclined to go to religious heads for treatment. Asian American mainly look to their extended family and folk healers for help during difficult times, and so professionals will probably not be visited.

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