Cultural and religious views play a significant role in the way individuals and families approach mental illness. Every culture in the world experiences mental illness in their population. As our state is a beautifully rich cultural and religious melting pot, it is important to recognize, and be sensitive to, differences and how they relate to mental health diagnosis and treatment.

Cultural competency in mental health treatment is complex. In order to break the barriers of mental health stigma and successfully communicate across the cultural and religious continuum, one must first acknowledge the existence of basic cultural and religious discrimination. Trust can only be built through genuine respect and true understanding in order to encourage individuals to seek treatment. Treatment must then be provided in a manner compatible to people's beliefs and values.

Within the diversity of our communities there are many different ways for stigma to manifest. In some cultures, the shame associated with mental illness is so great that individuals opt to suffer in secrecy. In other cultures it is preferred to have a family member who is a drug addict or a criminal rather than someone living with mental illness. History has taught us the value of tolerance with respect to the diversity of culture and religion. Cultural and religious communities have the power to have a positive impact on stigma by espousing the same kind of tolerance.

Houses of worship are a source of shelter and comfort for so many.  However, even in the faith based community, the stigma of mental illness can prevent individuals and families from getting the shelter and comfort they so desperately need. It is vital that mental illness be recognized as a medical issue and be treated as such. It is also important to acknowledge the power of faith and tradition in cultural and religious communities. When religious and cultural leaders combine these philosophies to address the issue of mental illness, they provide a powerful support system for the communities they serve.

Resources for the cultural and religious communities:

Religion and Spirituality in the Treatment Room
Spirituality and Mental Illness

African Americans

African American Community Mental Health Fact Sheet (NAMI) [pdf 208k]
African American Families and Mental Health: What You Need to Know

Asian Americans

Asian American and Pacific Islander Fact Page (NAMI)
Asian American Mental Health
National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association 

Latino Americans

Latino/Hispanic Resources (NAMI)
National Latino Behavioral Health Organization
How Do Hispanics Experience Depression?
Association of Hispanic Mental Health Professionals
NAMI NJ in Español
National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health

Arab Americans

Arab American Mental Health Needs
American Muslims and Mental Health Issues

American Indian/Alaskan Natives

NAMI Information for American Indian/Alaskan Natives
First Nations Behavioral Health Association
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services' Indian Health Service

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