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Fighting Mental Health Stigma in the Inner City

Mental illness attitudes differ among people, families, ethnicities, communities, and nations. The teachings of culture and religion also affect assumptions about the causes and existence of mental illness, and form attitudes towards the mentally ill. In addition to affecting whether mentally ill people encounter social stigma, mental illness attitudes may influence the preparation of patients.


The vast spectrum of cultural values concerning mental health is illustrated by a study of ethnocultural beliefs and mental illness stigma by Abdullah et al. (2011). For example, although some American Indian tribes do not stigmatize mental illness, others only stigmatize some mental illnesses, and all mental illnesses are stigmatized by other tribes. In Asia, where adherence with norms is respected by many societies and emotional enforcement Mental disorders are often stigmatized and used as a source of guilt, self-control, family acknowledgement by accomplishment. However, other causes, such as the supposed cause of the condition, can affect the stigmatization of mental disorder. In a 2003 report, a vignette was introduced to Chinese Americans and European Americans in which a person was diagnosed with schizophrenia or a major depressive disorder was diagnosed.


Participants were then told that scientists believed that the condition of the person was of "genetic," "partly genetic," or "not genetic" nature, and respondents were asked to rate how they would feel if one of their children were dating, married, or replicated with the topic of the vignette. Genetic attribution of mental illness decreased marriage resistance and productiveness among the Chinese Americans considerably, but raised the same among Europeans endorsing prior cultural disparities in the trends of stigmatization of mental disorder.


Other important variations in attitudes towards mental illness among ethnic groups in the United States have been documented by several studies. Carpenter-Song et al. (2010) completed an intensive ethnographic survey of 25 seriously mentally ill people living in the inner city of Hartford, Connecticut, based on 18 months of observation.


Europeans also sought treatment from specialists in mental health and appeared to share views on mental illness which coincided with biomedical perspectives on disease. In comparison, the "non-biomedical interpretations" of psychiatric symptoms are more common among African American and Latin Americans participants. While participants from all three ethnic groups reported having mental health stigma, stigma was a central component of the responses of African Americans, but wasn't significantly illustrated by Europeans.


Whereas the American psychiatric pharmaceuticals were commonly regarded as "central and needed" facets of therapy, the discontent of medicinal experts was documented among African American participants. Moreover, psychiatric diagnoses were frequently perceived as "potentially socially harmful" by Latino participants, who tended to deem their symptoms of mental health to be more usually nervous and were deemed to be less stigmatic. As African Americans and Latinos in the United States are much less likely to pursue mental treatment than Europeans, studies into potential cultural contributions to this trend of use may help strengthen attempts to improve mental health.


Among many African Americans, Bailey et al. (2011) also report negative attitudes towards health care professionals, noting that stigma, religious beliefs, distrust of the medical profession, and communication barriers may contribute to the wariness of mental health services by African Americans. (10) In a 2007 study, about 63 percent of African Americans viewed depression as a "personal deficiency". Just one-third indicated that they will consider therapy for depression if administered by a medical professional. Since African Americans are less likely to undergo adequate diagnosis and care for depression and are more likely to have depression over prolonged periods of time, the attitudes of African Americans regarding mental illness and the medical profession should be taken into account in attempts to prevent depression.


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