How Culture and Identity Intersect with Mental Health by Nitara Osbourne and Brittney Morse

| Eryn Marx

According to a recent Forbes article on mentoring, only 76% of people think mentors are important, however, only 37% of people currently have one.


Culture and Identity Impact Mental Health

As with anything in life, there are different points-of-view when it comes to movies, television shows, politics, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and even mental health. People have a plethora of opinions on a variety of topics. And although many may effectively defend their position as if it is the only one, there’s no denying that the topic of mental health and all those facing mental health conditions need to be treated with care and compassion. This is especially true in how mental health relates to different cultures.

The Obstacles that Impact Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics

This article will only highlight mental health in how it relates to Black, Asian, and Hispanic cultures, as well as the barriers they face.

The Black community faces different mental health conditions, but one that is concerning is depression. Depression is a disorder that impacts all age groups, ethnicities, and races inclusive of white Americans. Clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, is a serious mood disorder that impacts the way an individual handles daily activities (e.g., eating, sleeping, or working), how they think, and how they feel. The insufficient data on depression within the Black community adds to the problems of misdiagnosing, under diagnosing, and under treatment of the condition in the community.

Within the Asian community, about 2.9 million Asian Americans faced a mental illness in 2019, even though this very community is three times less likely to get help compared to other racial groups in the United States. Stigma and shaming are the major culprits deterring Asian Americans from seeking the help they need. But the National Latino and Asian American Study found 17.3% of Asian Americans will inevitably be diagnosed with a mental health condition during their lifetime.

And within the Hispanic Community, stigma is also a major issue. Mental health stigmas are associated with violent behavior, are perceived as dangerous, and the idea that those facing this condition are not capable of getting better. One study even found that Hispanic families would deny that any family member is facing a mental health condition unless the symptoms got bad enough to threaten their life.

Stigma is a tough idea to run away from because it’s always present in the mind of the individuals who accept it as reality. And when it’s physically or emotionally put into action by others, it manifests into a reality known as discrimination.

Solutions that Could Make a Difference in Mental Health

Treating all people with care, compassion, and love is what will help to contribute to breaking down many barriers. But that is only an altruistic starting point. The realities call for realized effort and work on the part of everyone. Those in a position of power who can create actual change can communicate with leaders in all communities to find out the needs of those communities, as it will also take active members of the communities to work together as well.

Between advocacy, education, access, and resources, positive change may be slow, but ultimately is inevitable. We are all part of the human race with the same needs for food, shelter, clothing, and safety. And if it’s only our distinctions with color, culture, and identity that divide us, those same distinctions can bring us together for the greater good of individuals facing a mental illness, as well as their families.

By Nitara Osbourne, M.Ed., a Content Specialist and Brittney Morse, a Reputation Management Coordinator for American Addiction Centers. Brittney is a Licensed Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor, with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology and a master’s degree in psychology. Brittney has 5 years clinical experience working in the field of addiction at all levels of care.