Mental health awareness has been a topical issue for years and is something that needs to be addressed given the thousands of people that suffer through mental health illnesses.However, there is no doubt that over the centuries, mental illnesses have fallen into the category of taboo subjects and that there is a massive stigma surrounding it. In the more recent years, the discussion and acknowledgement of mental health illnesses has increased, but it still falls into cultural stigma. The cultural stigma regarding mental health is most apparent in minority groups because of their distinct beliefs and the americanization of mental health.
The cultural stigma in minority groups such as Latinos and Asian Americans is mostly a matter of prejudiced, negative, and static beliefs which devalue mental illnesses.
To understand the cultural stigma of mental health, it’s important to note what exactly is being stigmatized and the general sense of why it is, in this case it’s people who have mental illnesses in specific cultures. The article, “Living with a Concealable Stigmatized Identity,” goes in great detail about the specific kinds of stigma that exist and how its impact on the mental well-being of those stigmatized. The writers of this article define concealable stigmatized identity as an aspect of one’s self that must be hidden from others because it is devalued and there are negative stereotypes surrounding the matter. The article further discusses these different types of stigma such as anticipated stigma, which is how much the person with the concealable identity will be discriminated against. There is also centrality which focuses on the importance of self-identity in regards to their race, ethnicity, or sexuality, being open and accepting of those parts of yourself.
All these aspects regarding concealable stigmatized identity and negative stereotypes are mainly apparent in minority groups such as the Latino and Asian communities. In regards to mental health, latinos view this to be something of little importance compared and they share different values on how to deal with the issue. Latinos are not big on receiving therapy or consultation for depression or anxiety because they value strength and determination, fighting through their problems without seeking help. Strength is a major cultural value of the Latino community that is mainly the cause of negative viewpoints of those with mental health illnesses. This trait is especially common in Latin men because of the “macho” attitude that they are expected to portray. If a Hispanic male were to be clinically depressed, this would be considered, as mentioned in Diana M. Quinn and Stephenie R. Chaudoir’s article, concealable stigmatized identity. If the man were to reveal he is depressed, he would be discriminated against by family and people of his community. The cultural value of men being the strongest and caregivers of their wives and children is what deems men with mental illnesses to suffer cultural stigma.
The Latino community is founded by many traditional values that many of them, especially in the older generations, are reluctant to accept the importance of mental health. These traditional values cause prejudice for those that do not follow it. A good example of this is the LGBTQ+ community amongst Latinos. The article, “LGBTQ+ Latinx young adults’ health autonomy in resisting cultural stigma,” discusses the struggles of these group of people having to combat traditional values and their culturally shaped viewpoints. It can be difficult to combat both your culture of heritage and the predominant culture you must adapt to. In the article, there is an anecdote about a bisexual woman who grew up in a Mexican household that never really discussed sex and sexual orientation. These topics were taboo and not to be spoken of in then household. The only main concern as she stated “to not get pregnant” and because of barriers like this, it can lead to miscommunication and lack of understanding. Luckily she was able to overcome this by embracing social diversity and educating herself. Traditional values in Latino communities many times are overbearing and can be static, causing lack of knowledge and prejudices if one of their communities doesn’t conform to these values.
Overwhelming cultural values all tie into the stigma that mental health faces in minority communities such as the Latin. There are also many cases where one is viewed as crazy or their “overreacting.” These kinds of terms are damaging to the acceptance of mental health being something that should not be taken lightly.
The Asian community, quite similarly to the Lain community, also has cultural values that deem mental health to be something negative. According to the article, “Cultural Variation in Implicit Mental Illness Stigma”, involving a study on Asian Americans’ perspectives on mental illness, one of the reasons why mental illnesses are stigmatized by Asians is because it prevents them from doing their social obligations in society. The Asian culture does have a history of serving the society they live in. This comes from a sense of nationalism, being devoted to their country, only in most cases, it’s being devoted to your work/educational obligations. Being depressed or having some kind of mental disorder is seen as detrimental to that society. These cultural values of work ethnic and civic duty puts mental illnesses in a negative light.
Stigma is socially contracted and is a component that greatly affects how people perceive one another. Anything out of the “normal” and what isn’t socially acceptable is deemed to be negative criticism by society. Mental illnesses and disorders have a history of being out of the ordinary and anyone who has them is subjected to many of the stereotypes that come with it. They are seen as weak, crazy, and dangerous. They go from being like everyone else, to be being isolated socially.
The discrimination is gradually getting better, especially in the U.S, but the cultural stigma that people with mental health issues fall into cannot be rid given the vast minority groups that stigmatize mental health a lot more compared to White Americans. The foundations and traditions set by these distinct cultures are the forefront of cultural stigma in regards to mental health awareness.
Cheon, B., & Chiao, J. (2012). Cultural Variation in Implicit Mental Illness Stigma. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 43(7), 1058–1062. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022112455457
Quinn, D. M., & Chaudoir, S. R. (2009). Living with a concealable stigmatized identity: The impact of anticipated stigma, centrality, salience, and cultural stigma on psychological distress and health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97(4), 634-651. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.rowan.edu/10.1037/a0015815
Schmitz, R., Sanchez, J., & Lopez, B. (2018). LGBTQ+ Latinx young adults’ health autonomy in resisting cultural stigma. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 21(1), 16–30. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691058.2018.1441443