Breaking the stigma - Culture and mental health

- “We need to talk more about this particular issue because in many ways mental health is like a hidden -- sometimes people are struggling with it silently,” said Tej Singh, a social worker with Communities In Schools of Houston. He works in an area high school.

However, stigmas that exist within cultural groups can make it hard to ask for help.

Singh, whose family is from India, says sometimes he’ll see how some South Asian students feel pressure to be high achievers and push through stress.

“So, when you grow up with that it’s almost like you brush [off] or ignore that there could be real mental health symptoms of depression or anxiety that need to be talked about and verbalized,” added Singh.

He adds it’s not uncommon for South Asians to worry about their family social status will be affected if they seek mental health services.

Minerva Martinez, a therapist with Legacy Community Health, says her some of Latino patients believe mental health problems should be solved at home or through a religion.

“[Sometimes] you need more to cure a mental health condition,” said Martinez referring to religion.

She adds she also sees how stigma can impact how her Latino patients view, or dismiss, mental health conditions and their symptoms.

“They say [they have] ‘nervios,’ so nerves, and they may not know that that’s anxiety,” Martinez explained.

She says some patients worry mental health providers may not understand them because of their cultural background.

“There is help out there. Practitioners are trained in cultural sensitivity,” she told FOX 26. She adds all of the providers with Legacy Community Health are receive the training.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has tips to find a culturally competent mental health provider.

The organization suggests asking for referrals from cultural organizations or health insurance companies for providers that fit a particular background.

They also recommend asking providers whether they have cultural competency training, if they have ever worked with people of a particular background, whether they have bilingual staff, and how aspects of a cultural identity would be included in a treatment plan.

NAMI also suggests paying attention to the diversity among the staff at the provider’s office and other signs of inclusions such as pamphlets that target a particular group.

Singh says the important thing is to start somewhere.

“You’re not alone. You’re really not alone. I may not be able to relate to you but I’m going to listen to you non-judgmentally, and I’m going to connect you with the resources or people that you’re going to be able to relate to,” he concluded.

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