Overcoming student’s cultural beliefs in getting mental health support

In their research paper Nieuwsma et al., talks about “Attitudes toward mental illness vary
among individuals, families, ethnicities, cultures, and countries. Cultural and religious
teachings often influence beliefs about the origins and nature of mental illness, and shape
attitudes towards the mentally ill. In addition to influencing whether mentally ill individuals
experience social stigma, beliefs about mental illness can affect patients’ readiness and
willingness to seek and adhere to treatment” 1 .
Memon et al., highlight personal and environmental factors, as well as the relationship
between the service user and healthcare practitioner as key barriers to accessing mental
health services. The inability to recognise symptoms or accept a diagnosis impacted on black
and minority ethnic participants help seeking behaviour. Cultural beliefs and expectations to
‘deal with it’ and to ‘be strong’ affected how mental illness was understood and how people
coped. 2
Regardless of which part of the world we come from, we all have mental health just as we
all have physical health. We openly talk about our physical health when we get ill, or we
have pain in our bodies. So why only talk about this but not manage our own mental health
too? Why not be our own support and help by learning and equipping ourselves with
accessible tools/processes so there is no external agency and no disclosure necessary?
I have heard my own family telling me to pull myself together when I was down, I did not
feel embarrassed to talk about how I felt but I sure wished I could help myself and feel
better about myself and how I experienced life. I also wanted to help myself and this is one
of the key reasons why I love the SEJ. Since I have learnt the process and experienced the
ease, speed and accessibility of the SEJ in every area of my life I never looked back. I love
the fact that I can support, and not only feel better, but wholly take care of myself. That was
truly empowering for me to realise, and I wish that for everyone.
The SEJ will surpass any stigma or willingness of the ‘patient’ because we are all personally
responsible for our own mental health and not dependent on someone else, be it
professional or family. The SEJ is universal and applicable to all of us, as Mary tells us it is for
everyone who thinks. So, there is no barrier to having excellent mental health is there?

  1. Nieuwsma, J.A., Pepper, C.M., Maack, D.J., Birgenheir, D.G. (2011). Indigenous perspectives
    on depression in rural regions of India and the United States. Transcultural Psychiatry, 48(5):
    539-568.
  2. Memon, A, Taylor, K, Moebati, L, Sundin, J, Cooper, M, Scanlon, T, de Visser, R, Perceived
    barriers to accessing mental health services among black and minority ethnic (BME)
    communities: a qualitative study on Southeast England, BMJ open, 2016, Vol 6, issue 11
    Dr M Howard-Kishi

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