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People of diverse racial and ethnic communities are just as likely as white people to experience mental health disorders, yet they are less likely to receive treatment. Those who seek treatment can face a number of barriers, including language and culture, making the diagnosis and recovery journey difficult.

Traditionally, people of color choose to seek help later than white people, waiting until they present with incredibly high levels of stress. A common reason for this is stigma – negative attitudes or discrimination based on a characteristic like mental illness. Recognizing this and other barriers in communities of color, understanding the reasons behind them and knowing how to mitigate them can help mental health professionals provide better quality care and decrease disparities in mental health treatment.

Cultural differences create another barrier to treatment. Cultural barriers may result in confusion, misunderstanding and frustration between providers and patients. Lack of cultural understanding and diversity in mental health care can lead to misdiagnoses, unsuccessful treatment plans and more. Additionally, it may prevent individuals from seeking treatment or feeling fully understood by professionals when they do.

Examples of cultural barriers preventing effective mental health treatment include:

  • Different understandings of illness or health
  • Lack of diversity in the mental health workforce
  • Mistrust or fear of treatment
  • Language barriers and ineffective communication
  • Transportation or childcare issues

Different cultures have varying perceptions on the meanings of illness and health. The beliefs associated with each determine if a person seeks treatment, how they manage their symptoms, what their support system looks like and more. For example, some cultures may attribute mental illness to black magic, karma, spirits, the breaking of taboos or the evil eye.

Language differences can impact treatment

Clear and effective communication helps break down these barriers. However, language barriers between patient and provider can also lead to misinterpretations or mistranslations, creating confusion and frustration. Because of this, it’s important to offer resources in an individual’s first language. At Oceans Behavioral Hospital, we understand the importance of culturally competent health care. We strive to make communication and treatment as stress-free as possible, providing resources in both English and Spanish.

Culturally diverse mental health care is essential for providing effective and accurate treatment. Cultural differences influence every individual and, with proper education and training, culturally sensitive treatment can lead to more positive patient experiences for people of color. If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health condition, we offer help without judgement. For more information, find an Oceans location near you or fill out this confidential form to have a staff member call you.

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