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The Nuances of Psychiatric Care: Supporting Different Cultural Backgrounds

  • June 4, 2024
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The Nuances of Psychiatric Care: Supporting Different Cultural Backgrounds

When it comes to providing psychiatric care, we need to be aware of the huge influence cultural factors can have on the individuals receiving treatment.  

Culture has a dramatic impact on the perception, awareness, and treatment of mental illnesses. To break down the barriers that can prevent certain cultural groups from receiving care, we need to tackle the issue of mental health from the grassroots level. And, as a mental healthcare professional, it is critical to have an in-depth understanding of the cultural nuances that can affect delivering psychiatric care.

Let’s discuss. 

Delivering Psychiatric Care: Advice for Mental Healthcare Practitioners 

If you are a qualified mental healthcare practitioner, you will already be aware of the influences of certain cultural factors on the delivery of psychiatric care. Certainly, you would have covered such concepts at some level during your tertiary studies. If you completed a Master of Mental Health Nursing, for example, you likely completed coursework study units focussed on cultural ethics and issues of diversity in the mental healthcare space. 

Regardless, that does not mean that there is not always more to learn. We can certainly delve deeper into the ways culture affects mental health. We can also do much more to help individuals from minority community groups access the psychiatric care they need.

Indeed, studies have shown that historically, certain minority groups experience dramatically reduced access to psychiatric care when compared with other cultural groups. This could be for several reasons. Firstly, how we perceive mental illness differs a great deal from one culture to another. In some cultures, there is not the same awareness or weight placed on the importance of mental health. For this reason, individuals from these cultural backgrounds are less likely to seek psychiatric care. Further, the notions of stigma and shame that are associated with mental illness can be much more significant in certain cultures, which can also be a massive deterrent when it comes to seeking treatment. 

Cultural Factors: How Do They Impact Mental Healthcare?

Even today, mainstream conversations around the influence of culture and society on mental health are only now coming to the surface. 

In some cultures, mental illness is an issue that has long been swept under the rug. This could be the result of high levels of cultural stigma around discussing mental health in these particular cultures. Further, it may not be deemed culturally appropriate to have these types of conversations in public – or to ‘air our dirty laundry’, as it were. 

Undoubtedly, this notion of the ‘stiff upper lip’ can be highly detrimental to having open conversations about how we are faring mentally. For this reason, we need to be culturally sensitive when delivering psychiatric care as mental healthcare professionals. But, how exactly do we overcome these cultural sensitivities and deliver the best possible mental health treatment? Stay with us as we explore this concept further.

How do we Overcome Cultural Factors to Deliver Culturally Appropriate Psychiatric Care? 

The role an individual’s culture plays in presenting, being diagnosed, and receiving treatment for mental illness is significant. However, there are ways we can help encourage these individuals to seek the treatment and care they need. These include:

Developing Community Awareness and Support

For the issue of mental illness to become more accepted in society, we need to be having more open discussions about its commonality. Indeed, a huge proportion of the global population is likely to experience mental illness at some time in their life. Having a mental illness is not exclusive to one culture or another. Indeed, we are all human. We all go through challenges in life, and at times, we all need support.

Having these types of conversations at a grassroots level can go far in increasing community awareness and support for mental healthcare treatments. It can also help minimise the stigma commonly associated with seeking psychiatric help.

Providing Access to Culture-Specific Treatment Resources

Lastly, providing minority community members access to psychiatric care and treatment within their communities is critical. Fortunately, as more individuals from different cultural backgrounds are becoming qualified to practice mental healthcare, we are lessening the social divide between those who have access to community-based care and those who do not.

Just as importantly, government support for mental healthcare – such as, in Australia, the GP-approved mental healthcare plan – is making psychiatric care more accessible for individuals from various socio-economic backgrounds. 

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