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Mental Health

-Why Culture Matters-

Cultural sensitivity is key to creating stories that are accurate and relevant to people who are part of the cultural groups being depicted. Understanding how culture and ethnicity impact the way individuals experience mental illness and how their communities respond to it is critical. From the point of view of the mental health care system, services and support need to be in tune with and respectful of individual healthcare beliefs, practices and the cultural and linguistic needs of the community. Otherwise, diagnoses may be incorrect and services or treatment offered could prove ineffective. Likewise, messaging and depictions of these topics demonstrate understanding and cultural sensitivity in order to increase the authenticity and richness of storytelling and character.

 Did you know?
Access to language interpreters is limited. Among non-English speakers who said they needed an interpreter during a health care visit, fewer than one-half (48 percent) said they always or usually had one.

Who gets help? Who doesn’t? Why? 
  • Racial and ethnic populations experience inequities such as less access to and use of needed mental health services, often because they experience lower socioeconomic status, language or cultural barriers in greater proportion. When individuals from these populations do receive services, they tend to be of lower quality. 
  • Although the U.S. Surgeon General called for action to address the striking disparities in mental health services affecting racial and ethnic populations as compared with whites nearly 10 years ago, to date, not enough progress has been made to address these disparities. Recent studies show that populations in California that have the highest unmet need include Latino, Asian, and African American adults. In addition, young and older adults across racial and ethnic groups experience the greatest unmet needs.

Suggestions for Depiction Suicide Prevention Group

Taking cultural considerations into the creation of your characters and storylines enhances both accuracy and drama. Consider these tips when designing your storylines about mental health:

  • Consider the inclusion of an interpreter in interactions between the individual and a service provider if English is not that character’s first language.
  • When appropriate, explore how culture affects a character’s reaction to a diagnosis or the acceptance of that diagnosis by the character’s family. You could also consider the cultural barriers that someone might encounter when choosing to tell family members that they are accessing mental health services in their community.
  • Consider challenges that your character may go through when deciding whether or not to explore the mental health services available to them. Will the provider speak their language, will they find someone that they can connect with or relate to?
  • Think about how the service provider might have to change his or her language or approach when it comes to educating someone about mental health. These changes are necessary even among individuals of differing ages or gender and not just race or ethnicity.
  • Take into account how someone in a particular culture may experience or interpret symptoms of a mental illness differently than those in the mainstream. For example, they may use a religious/spiritual explanation for what’s happening to them, which has much different implications than if they believe it is a medical condition.

 17 APA Call For Entries
The 17th Annual PRISM Awards Call for Entries is now open!

Click here to download the full submissions packet 

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 The 16th Annual PRISM 
Awards Showcase is available Online & On-Demand!
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16th Annual PRISM Awards Showcase!

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