Healthy New Jersey

New Jersey Governor's Council on Mental Health Stigma

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Culture and Religion

Cultural and Religious Views Influence How People Approach Mental Illness

Every culture in the world experiences mental illness in its population. Mental illness is universal. As our state is a beautifully rich in cultural and religious diversity, it is important to recognize, and be sensitive to, differences and how they relate to mental health diagnosis and clinical care and other services.

Cultural Competency in Mental Health Care 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 be built only through genuine respect and true understanding in order to encourage individuals to seek treatment. Care must then be provided in a manner compatible with 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 Sources 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 approached 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.

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