USA: Using Cultural Competency for Mental Health Access Outreach

Relevant study:

College campuses need stronger cultural competency when designing mental health access outreach, as racial and ethnic minorities increasingly forego access to care, according to data from the University of California, Riverside.

The study, published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, particularly recommended college campuses look at the shared cultural values between Asian and Latinx students, two populations that researchers said often go without needed mental healthcare.

“This means counselors can identify a culturally sensitive, value-driven approach to encouraging greater participation in campus mental health services, instead of focusing only on students’ ethnicity in their outreach efforts” Kalina Michalska, the study’s senior author and a UCR psychology researcher, said in a statement.

Currently, about three-quarters of Asian students and 65 percent of Latinx students go without needed mental healthcare, the researchers reported. Those staggering figures could be due to cultural differences, like commitment to family obligations and interdependence that could make the burden of stigma stronger for Asian and Latinx students.

That is not to mention the social determinants of health, like racial bias or financial barriers, keeping Asian and Latinx students from accessing mental healthcare as often as their White peers.

Through surveying about Asian and Latinx culture, as well as about perceptions about mental healthcare access, the researchers were able to determine they were right, at least about cultural differences.

The survey 25- and 35-question surveys for Asian and Latinx students, respectively, highlighted a culture of deference to one’s family that could dissuade students from accessing mental healthcare for fear of stigma or shame.

Additionally, the stronger a student reported cultural beliefs in interdependence, the less likely they were to signal a need or a likelihood to access mental healthcare. For these students, support in one’s family and social circle was deemed essential for addressing mental health issues.

Importantly, the researchers could not draw a direct link between a student’s desire to honor her culture with a conscious decision not to access mental healthcare. However, the surveys did suggest some links between cultural attitudes and mental healthcare access that differ somewhat for White students of Western descent.

This comes as US institutions, like colleges, are becoming increasingly diversified. At UC Riverside, about a third of the students are Asian and 41 percent are Latinx. Campuses like UC Riverside need to account for multiculturalism in numerous ways, including as it relates to health and mental healthcare.

“Given the increasing diversity among U.S. college students, there is an urgent need for universities to develop proactive and culturally informed programs designed to improve mental health support for students, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds,” Michalska said.

Although Michalska and her team did not outline specific steps for building culturally competent patient outreach strategies, they did note that understanding cultural beliefs about interdependence and support through family would be important for understanding how to better tailor mental healthcare efforts on college campuses.

And in doing so, colleges can help ensure better and more equitable patient access to care, the researchers concluded.

Source: Using Cultural Competency for Mental Health Access Outreach

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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