Mental health is an important issue and one that deserves our attention. We must be conscious that mental health affects everyone, regardless of their cultural background or spiritual practice. However, there seems to be a disconnect between healthcare providers and people in communities where culture and spirituality play an essential role. Many cultural and spiritual beliefs and practices can impact an individual's mental health. For example, some cultural groups believe that evil spirits cause mental illness. Others believe that having these symptoms means a person needs to be blessed. In some cultures, there is a belief that suicide is a sin, so families often try to keep the person alive even if this causes them a lot of pain. I'm sure you are wondering what encouraged me to write about this; well, as always, I found myself scrolling through #tiktok and saw a conversation. A video of a voodoo priest appeared, and she explained how people could put hexes on you and your children and went into detail about protecting them. Someone commented, " Wow, I thought I was crazy for keeping my children away from certain people." If I had met this client in the beginning stages of my career, my westernized clinical training would have pushed me towards considering some level of psychosis or paranoia. Neglecting to understand this is a legitimate concern for some people worldwide.
Understanding these beliefs and practices can help mental health providers better care for their patients. You don't have to agree or even formulate an opinion. This means being more aware and sensitive to their culture and belief system so they can be treated with respect and consideration. Cultural awareness and spiritual sensitivity are not just crucial in health care; they should also be considered in other areas such as education, business, and government. We all play a critical role in providing mental health care. This is especially important when supporting people from culturally and spiritually diverse backgrounds. These people need specific support in dealing with mental health issues. Understanding how to rule out certain aspects due to cultural factors is imperative.
There is a growing recognition that traditional healing approaches may not always be best for all clients and that different methods exist. Research has shown that patients who receive care from providers who understand their beliefs and customs tend to have better outcomes. This is one of the main reasons why cultural competency training is encouraged, but they often neglect to highlight how there may be some non-evidence-based practices that can be just as impactful.
Healthcare workers must have a basic understanding of their patients' cultures to provide appropriate care. In our efforts to do no harm, let's try to use a wider lens when supporting clients.