Culture, Mental Health, and How They Impact Each Other

Mental health can be a difficult topic for people to address regardless of their background. However, cultural differences can have an impact on mental health. Culture isn’t just about what we eat, how we speak, or even what we wear, it’s more than that. It includes sharing a set of values, beliefs, traditions, and sense of belonging (source). Therefore, understanding the role culture has on mental health is key in knowing how to seek support and treatment in times of need (source).


Some of the impacts culture has on mental health include (source) (source):

Stigma and discrimination

Different cultures hold different views and beliefs regarding mental health. They can be positive views, but there is often a growing stigma around mental health. For many, mental health battles can be seen as weakness and shameful. It makes sense why this can lead to challenges talking openly about their health and seek help.


Understanding symptoms

Language and culture can impact how people describe and understand what symptoms they are experiencing. It influences if someone recognizes and talks about their physical as well as emotional symptoms.


Community support

Support from family and community and be difficult to seek due to cultural stigma. This leads to people finding treatment and support alone.


Resources

When seeking resources, finding someone who relates to your experience and concerns is very important, but it may be challenging and time consuming to find the appropriate resources that consider cultural factors and needs. When family members have differing views on mental health and support, more obstacles are put in place when finding help.


Adapting to a new culture

Adjusting to fit into a new culture and learn their norms is stressful and a lot to manage for people. Not only can it be hard for the individual, but for the whole family or even the community. Older people may find it more challenging to adapt and that can cause some conflict within the family dynamic. Feeling caught between and navigating two cultures is something many people experience and struggle with. However, family and community support help alleviate the stress.


Trauma

People from different cultures may experience trauma from leaving their home countries and adapting to western cultural ideals. Trauma can also include war, injustice, and discrimination which can lead to even more hurdles when it comes to addressing mental health or contribute to mental health challenges.


Isolation

Culture, language, discrimination, and identity can be very isolating and damaging for people’s mental health. Isolation can lead to further mental health struggles, substance use and prevent people from seeking help. Social support is key in recovery and treatment, so isolation may hinder that process.


Resilience

Cultural factors like beliefs and values impact how we overcome challenges, help ourselves/seek help in times of stress, and how we perceive different situations. Culture and the things we learn through it can be an important aspect of well-being and guide us through hard times.



What can we do about it?


Understanding the role of culture in mental health is a key aspect in addressing mental health concerns. Learning how to identify the signs of mental health and substance use challenges can help determine what type of treatment is needed. People of all backgrounds need to work together to address and break the mental health stigma in minority groups.



 

About the Author


Trevena (She/Her)

Hello! This is my first year as a Healthy U volunteer and the last year of my BSc Microbiology major with a minor in Biology. I’m very excited to build more connections in the university community, as well as expanding my knowledge on various health topics.


If I’m not studying, you can usually find me watching a new TV series, painting, or hanging out with friends!