What comes to mind when you consider culture? Many of us immediately think of what is right in front of us: different languages, clothing, and food. However, the culture of a society influences a person’s beliefs, norms, and values. It influences how you perceive certain ideas or behaviors. And, in the case of mental health, it can influence whether you seek help, the type of help you seek, and the support you have available to you.
According to the data given by National Health Mission, six to seven percent of the population suffers from mental health concerns. There is an admission by the general public of their feelings toward people suffering from mental illness. Any indication of emotional and behavioral deviation from the expected and usual is viewed as non-conformist. People with mental illness diagnosis, are discouraged from discussing their issues openly due to discrimination. These experiences are influenced by local cultural factors.
CULTURE, FAITH HEALING AND AWARENESS
It is critical to understand how the sociocultural, economic, legal, infrastructural, and environmental factors, that influence an individual’s mental health are structured in the given community setting. Here are three ways culture can impact mental health care for adults:
- Cultural stigma. The concept of mental health is viewed differently in every culture. For example, culture influences how people describe their symptoms, such as whether they describe emotional or physical symptoms. Essentially, it determines whether people present symptoms selectively in a “culturally appropriate” manner that does not reflect negatively on them. Furthermore, cultures differ in the significance and level of concern they place on mental illness. This may make it more difficult for folks who are having a hard time communicating openly and request assistance from others.
- Understanding symptoms. Depending on their culture, people may explain and feel differently about their symptoms. It may have an impact on the decision to identify and discuss only physical symptoms, only emotional symptoms, or both. Prioritizing mental health disorders based on their signs, severity and addressing inequalities in health determinants and solutions remain significant challenges.
- Community Support. When it comes to mental health, cultural differences might affect how much assistance a person receives from their family and community. Various minorities sometimes have limited access and support due to the stigma and lack of knowledge. According to research on help seeking behavior for mental health care for adults in India, more than 70% of people seek help from faith or traditional healers for several weeks or months before turning to mental health practitioners.
This demonstrates that stigma and awareness are two separate, but highly integrated issues. They must be addressed concurrently in order to address the burden of mental illness diagnosis in India. As an outcome, addressing the lack of mental health awareness, accessibility, and infrastructure is critical.
FINDING THE MIDDLE GROUND
- Mental Health Awareness: We must raise mental health awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness diagnosis. Prioritizing mental health disorders based on their signs, severity and addressing inequalities in health determinants and solutions remain significant challenges.
- Community support: The need of the hour is to educate people about the signs and symptoms of mental illness, as well as to recalibrate the idea of seeking help for themselves and their loved ones. Self-help tools like Samvedna MAP can help individuals take the first step to understand their mental health.
- Resources: There should be more open dialogues and awareness building with the general public, to help establish a more inclusive environment for people with mental illness diagnosis.
Samvedna Care hopes to destigmatize and demystify mental health care for adults in the Indian context. Their online mental health counselling services and expert led webinars to encourage candid and honest discussions about mental health care for adults.