Culture and Mental Health Treatment

I recently came across Kaiser Health News’ article, “When Depression and Cultural Expectations Collide.” The article talks about an Asian American woman’s struggle with depression throughout her teenage years. The reporter, Anna Gorman, specifically highlights how an individual’s culture can prevent families and guidance counselors from getting the person the help he or she needs.

This was deeply troubling to me. However, it makes sense that one’s culture should affect his or her actions. According to the article, “[Asian Americans] may not see depression as a brain disease or fear stigma, many Asian immigrant families don’t reach out for help until there is a crisis, experts say. ‘A lot of Asians avoid seeking treatment until the disease is advanced,’ said MaJose Carrasco, director of the multicultural action center for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.”

But the issue of not getting help when depressed goes beyond one’s culture. It is hard for those suffering from depression to speak up and get help. According to data from Heathline, 80 percent of the people that have symptoms of clinical depression (these symptoms can be physical) are not receiving any specific treatment for their depression.

Depression is a disease and can lead to suicide if the person does not get help. In fact, 1 in 10 Americans suffer from depression at one point in their lives and 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a mental disorder at the time of their deaths. More must be done to end the stigma of depression within cultures and the educate people on the signs of the disease.

What is the media doing about it? Historically speaking, the media has been blamed for inaccurate depictions of depression and stigmatizing it, which has made getting help difficult for people with symptoms of depression. According to Michelle B. Riba, MD, MS, associate director of the University of Michigan Depression Center, women in advertisements for depression medication look “horrible, haggard, and worn, and are single — then after they get treated they look better.” Dr. Riba also states: It is mostly white women who are portrayed as suffering from depression; men are primarily featured in ads for drugs given to people with psychotic disorders; ads for schizophrenia medications often feature more racially mixed people.

To remove the stigma associated with depression, Everyday Health reports, mental health experts believe that media attention can be used to encourage public discussions about treatment for depression and other mental illnesses, and to remove the stigma of seeking help.

Below are several resources for those suffering from depression to call and get immediate help:

Your Life Your Voice

The Samaritans

BeyondBlue

Talk Space

Crisis Call Center

Mental Health America

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