Days of Diversity Series: Understanding Cultural Influences on Mental Health

While recent efforts have brought the importance of mental well-being into the spotlight, mental illness continues to be a widely misunderstood healthcare issue around the world. Multiple factors contribute to a lack of resources for patients including the stigmatization of mental illness and a lack of local resources for treatment and diagnosis. To raise awareness about this important topic, the Days of Diversity Series concluded with student presentations about the influences of culture on mental health issues and the obstacles many face when seeking treatment.

Booths around campus allowed presenters to raise awareness of mental health issues and facilitated meaningful discussion on each country. Informational displays and fliers raised awareness and provided additional statistics. Student presenters also talked about the efforts or obstacles currently present in countries such as Taiwan, India, and Spain. In South Korea, one in four Koreans experience mental health issues, contributing to the country’s ranking as having the second highest suicide rate in the world. A significant social stigma creates barriers for seeking treatment, erodes trust in the health care system, and makes it difficult for individuals to reintegrate into society.

Campaigns are underway in several countries to lift the stigma surrounding mental health and raise awareness of mental health issues. This is particularly crucial in rural areas where stigmas are more entrenched and resources are located farther away. In India, those suffering from mental health issues are described as “retard,” “crazy/mad/stupid,” “irresponsible/careless,” and viewed as untrustworthy, ‘infected’ with depression and highly contagious, and as lacking self-discipline and will-power. The prevalence of such negative attitudes shames those suffering from mental illness and keeps them from proactively seeking treatment.

Raising awareness is the first step in helping those who suffer from mental health issues. Campaigns create progress in the form of new policy agendas, increased local resources, and help cultivate support from family and friends. Student doctors who participated in the Days of Diversity Series were able to spotlight these issues around the world and show how physicians play an important role in the discussion.

Additional Resources:

“Want to Know How to Help a Friend? A Student Guide to Mental Health”

To view more photos from the event, visit the RVU Facebook page.

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