Can Culture Shape Your Mental Health ?

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Do you know culture affects, shapes our mind / mental health? Until now, we would not have given much thought to culture with regard to its influence on mental health. We often think mental health or illnesses is a personal matter that has to do with the individual only. However, they are in general affected by a combination of biological and genetic factors, psychology and society. All these factors are important but often get ignored.

Mind and body are inseparable; mental health is fundamental to health. Stigma is a major obstacle that prevents people from getting help. The cultural framework – beliefs, expectations, norms, taboos, etc influence who we are, what we think and what we do. It is therefore not surprising that culture influences both physical and mental health that vary not just individually but also collectively along with other factors such as diet, social activities, work habits, etc. Our societies have diverse cultures. So, it is interesting to know that society’s culture and backgrounds have a different effect on an individual’s mental health.

Cultural & religious teachings influence beliefs about origin, nature of mental illness and shape attitudes towards the mentally ill. There is a wide range of cultural beliefs surrounding mental health. Culture shapes who we are, so it will also shape our manifestations of fear, mental disorder, emotion, etc. Culture and social environment can shape as well as predict common mental disorders like anxiety and depression.

Let’s see a few examples: Some American Indians don’t stigmatize mental illness; others stigmatize few mental illnesses whereas other tribes stigmatize all mental illness. Another example is – drinking habits of the British may seem unhealthy or the exhaustive work habits of people living in the USA; taking pills for mental health issues is normal in some cultures & in others, it is seen as a sign of weakness.

Both culture and background are absolutely essential for psychiatrists and psychologists for patient’s assessment, diagnosis and treatment. Even family factors can protect against or contribute to the risk of developing a mental illness. One way in which culture affects mental illness is through how patients describe their symptoms to clinicians. For example – some like to report physical symptoms and don’t like to report emotional symptoms.  

Sometimes culture relates to how people cope with day to day problems. For instance - some tend not to dwell on upsetting thoughts while some dwell upon negative or disturbing thoughts for quite a while. African Americans handle personal problems on their own more than Whites.

To sum up, every culture has a unique perspective on mental health. How do you think your culture affects your views on mental health? Let us know in the comments below.





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