The Public Stigma of Mental Illness

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Defining Characteristics of Culture

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Being the center of every society, culture has various characteristics that make it a unique heritage that is transmitted from one generation to another. The very basic characteristics of culture include; it is shared, learned, integrated, dynamic and is also based on symbols. With these primary characteristics, groups of people hold cultural beliefs and practices that are different from those of others. With the seemingly diverse cultural beliefs and practices, culture becomes an important aspect when dealing with the issue of mental illness. Reason being, culture has the ability to determine whether people seek medical help, mental illness coping styles as well as the social support given to the mentally ill (Leach, 2013).

Acceptance of Mental Illness

Cultural differences bring about varying attitudes towards mental illness and this, in turn, affects the behavioral aspects that are crucial in making the diagnosis of the disease. Owing to the fact that culture is learned, there are those cultural teachings that greatly influence peoples beliefs about the nature and the origin of mental illness and consequently biasing other peoples attitude towards the mentally ill. Therefore, for clinicians to correctly implement effective mental healthcare, there is a need to understand diverse cultural and individual beliefs on mental illness (Jimenez, Bartels, Cardenas, & Alegria, 2013).

Additionally, acceptance of mental illness varies among different cultures. Different cultures have varying levels of stigma directed towards the mentally ill. While some cultures do not stigmatize the mentally ill, there are those cultures that highly stigmatize these people. Possible reasons for these diversities may include; beliefs in various healing rituals to heal the mentally ill which in turn supports and promotes the individuals integration in the society, loving and supportive family members, and willingness of the patient to reach out for help, among others. The other side of the coin is suffering from the mentally ill from the cultures that highly stigmatize and condemn mental illness. For instance, there are some cultural beliefs that mental illnesses reduce ones significance to marry and procreate. This, mainly happens when there is a genetic attribution of the mental illness due to the belief that the illness might be passed on to the children if any one of the parents is mentally ill (Pescosolido, 2015).

Acceptance of Mental Healthcare

Mental stigma has continually become a factor that impedes seeking of mental health care. More often, this is fueled by diverse cultural beliefs coupled with some cultural bound syndromes which instill fear of seeking mental health care. Some cultures believe that mental illness is aligned with biomedical perspectives while others believe and emphasize on non-biomedical beliefs and interpretations of symptoms of mental illness. This, in essence, brings about the difference in the manner in which diverse cultures embrace mental healthcare.

Complying With Treatment of Mental Illness

Some cultures see psychiatric medications central while others report frustrations when the focus is directed towards seeking psychiatric assistance. For other ethnic groups, mental illness is viewed as a problem that is potentially and socially damaging and, therefore, prefer to describe it as a nervous condition which they believe, calls for less stigma (Corrigan et al., 2016).

Mental Health and Illness According To the Hindu Culture

More often, there is a significant relation between religion and mental illness. Therefore, the view of this culture on mental health and illness involves religious, naturalistic and magical elements. Hindus have a belief that the aspects of human nature are integrated and independent. They, therefore have a concept towards health that is inseparable from beliefs on spiritual and physical health. According to their religion, it is believed that needs to be reincarnated over some cycles of birth and death till it attains peace with Brahma in a heaven state which is only possible when the soul is pure enough. There is a law of moral causality that controls imperfection in human affairs called Karma. The law guarantees that a person is reborn into a life that is in accordance with their past actions in their past life. Therefore, mental illness according to Hindu is believed to be a result of actions in the past life (Conway, 2012).


Conway, C. R. (2012). Book Review: "Oxford Bibliographies: Hinduism and Christianity" Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies, 25(1). doi:10.7825/2164-6279.1526

Corrigan, P., Druss, B., & Perlick, D. (2016). The Impact of Mental Illness Stigma on Seeking and Participating in Mental Health Care. Journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 34(7).

Jimenez, D. E., Bartels, S. J., Cardenas, V., & Alegria, M. (2013). Stigmatizing attitudes toward mental illness among racial/ethnic older adults in primary care. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 28(10). Retrieved from

Leach, J. (2013, May 24). Cultural differences in mental health? - OpenLearn - Open University. Retrieved from

Pescosolido, B. A. (2015). The Public Stigma of Mental Illness What Do We Think; What Do We Know; What Can We Prove? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 12. Retrieved from

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