Culture can Affect Willingness to Seek Help
Submitted to The Wilson Times by: Carol White
My grandmother used to say “What happens at home stays at home.” Keeping your business “your business” was especially true if you had a family member who bore the label of mentally ill.
Back then, and often today, families resist bearing the burden of shame, fear and isolation sometimes caused by misinformed, insensitive people. People say things like “Child, they are crazy”; “you know they lost their mind”; or “they went to the nuthouse.” Such horrific statements were often followed by laughter instead of empathy.
I clearly understand why many cultures, especially families in communities of color, refused to seek professional help for those afflicted. In some Asian cultures, the stigma reflects so poorly on the family lineage that families fear limiting marital and financial opportunities.
Even though research has found that physical, mental and sexual abuse place children at risk for mental disorders and suicide, Asians and African Americans still tended to avoid outward expressions of trauma and rely on themselves to cope in lieu of counselors they do not trust. A Kaiser survey found that 12% of African Americans and 15% of Latinos, in comparison with 1% of whites, felt that a doctor or health provider judged them unfairly or treated them with disrespect because of their race or ethnic background.
That — along with need for expanded health care, an increase in the number of minority counselors and communication barriers across cultural lines — has left a valley that, for many, has been too deep to cross. These issues have caused many with diagnosable mental disorders, regardless of culture, to negate treatment.
While changing culture and family dynamics are deeply personal and may take more time, service systems can influence the delivery systems and provide information for a better informed community. In the meantime, let’s all agree to reach out and support people we know are hurting from a mental disorder. Let’s agree to help them speak out about their depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts and get professional help.
Isn’t seeing them become well-adjusted, happy people worth having someone else in our business? I think so.
Carol White, Wilson
The writer holds a doctorate degree and is chairwoman of the Wilson County NAACP Education Committee.