World Mental Health Day, which falls on October 10th, 2007, embodies the theme 'Mental Health in a Changing World: The Impact of Culture and Diversity'.
The only constant in life is 'change', and the demographic landscape of the world has been one of the oldest contenders to this phenomenon. Migration history is a veritable repository of interesting examples of human migration, which have spurred watershed events, sometimes rocking many a nation and its people. Undoubtedly, this has impacted the physical and mental health of people who are caught in the clutches of such 'changes'.
AdvertisementHuman traffic across the globe has seen an upward trend in the years making the world a borderless entity. In today's dynamic world where people of different culture, faith and background cohabit, sharing similar environments, it is bound to influence their mental health in different ways. Immigrant population in the world, especially in the economically developed countries is believed to have hit an all-time high.
According to the statistics provided by the World Health Organization, one in every 35 persons is an Immigrant. A 2006 report has estimated the number of immigrants in the United States at 37.5 million. The World Federation of Mental Health (WFMH) urges that 'Inter-cultural Understanding Crucial to Promote Mental Health'. The initiative spearheaded by WFMH as part of the objectives for World Mental Health seeks to create awareness about the relationship between culture, race, and ethnicity on mental health in a changing world.
Transcultural Mental Health
Research in the past few years has highlighted the cultural influences on personality and its bearing on mental health. In the face of a truly globalized world, 'transcultural mental health services' needs adequate focus, especially in the approach adopted by patients to seek assistance for mental health ailments.
Some of the examples of such influences of culture and religion on approaches to mental health problems are evident in certain underprivileged corners of the world, where mental illness is still considered a stigma. In certain remote pockets of India, religious practices still rule in the name of warding off evil spirits from the 'supposedly possessed'; in actuality they are people who are mentally ill and would get better with treatment. The cultural leanings are so strong that it demands a different approach by mental health services to address such mental health issues. In order to do so, the specialist needs to be armed with the knowledge of the culture and diversity of the people in question, so that the solution is custom-made rather than a standard approach which might not provide the desired result.
The objectives of the WHO for World Mental Health will hinge on culture and diversity and its influence on mental health with specific relevance to the following topics:
• label and communicate distress;
• explain the causes of mental health problems;
• perceive mental health providers; and
• Utilize and respond to mental health treatment.
Cultural Competence - World of Good for Mental Health Services
Upon scratching the surface, it has to come to light that even the countries that value culture and diversity, could not boast of well-honed, tailor-made mental health services. This was because mental health professionals did not possess adequate knowledge about the cultural background, religion, spirituality, and customs of their immigrants, in order to provide a holistic mental health solution. The absence of formal training for mental health professionals in 'cultural competence' proved to be one of the greatest barriers to achieving mental health objectives in the world.
The WFMH opines that including 'cultural sensitivity' training during the training phase will help overcome existing challenges in mental health in a changing world. If the training is imparted in multicultural settings, mental health professionals can better chart out the patients' profile before they draw out a treatment plan. Just as family background, gender, sexual orientation formed important parameters in mental health assessment, adequate knowledge of culture, race, and religion should form the backbone of mental health treatment services.
The mental health of people caught in the wake of natural disasters is another preoccupation among mental health experts world-wide. In the US, these studies are of particular relevance, post Katrina. During such times, the importance of transcultural knowledge will be a shot in the arm to assist people grappling different forms of mental ailments.
The initiative of this world mental health day is a step in the right direction of ensuring better psychological care amid a transcultural environment.