Mental Health Awareness Month

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Mental Health and the Importance of Cultural Diversity

By African Coalition

Although the phrase “cultural competence” has become a fashionable term of art, there have been very few discussions of “multicultural competence” and even fewer practical guides to its implementation, especially in the public sector.

Mental health ailments and treatments involve the whole person, as well as the person’s key family and social relationships. The importance of understanding how culture affects the outcome of mental health service delivery has been well defined by many experts. Cultural differences exist at many different levels: help seeking behaviors, language and communication styles, symptomatic patterns and symptom expression, non-traditional healing practices, and the role and desirability of medical intervention.”

Amidst the many complexities of mental health treatment and practice, the African Coalition focuses on a profoundly important principle: the ties that bind individuals to their cultural and ethnic communities are invaluable and instructive resources in the understanding of mental illness and in the delivery of responsive and responsible mental health supports. Drawing on the rich cultural context of an individual not only promotes recovery for the individual and his/her family, it enriches the practitioner as well and rejuvenates the mental health organization as a whole. We need to be reminded of this and we need to learn how to truly implement the lessons offered to us by communities bound by history, shared values and traditions.