Validating mental health
Psychiatrists currently practicing in the United States and in many other countries around the world will undoubtedly have the opportunity to treat many patients belonging to ethnic and cultural groups different than their own.Such is the nature and magnitude of population changes since the end of World War II, which has accelerated through globalization in the last 2 decades.Cultural psychiatry is defined as the discipline within psychiatry that studies the numerous interrelationships between culture and psychiatry.As such, it aims to understand variations of the incidence, prevalence, clinical expression, course, and/or outcome of common psychiatric disorders as they appear in different societies and ethnic or cultural groups.Fortunately for the practicing psychiatrist, patients in their care, and healthcare systems that support their work, the growing discipline of cultural psychiatry is developing a substantive and increasingly sophisticated body of knowledge that will enhance the psychiatrist’s capacity to provide quality care across language and cultural barriers.As this knowledge base is mastered, the contemporary psychiatrist will be equipped with the attitudes, basic knowledge, clinical skills, and professional attitude necessary.
Some biomedical scientists have argued for the validity of such racial classifications to understand population’s variance in the prevalence of traits such as sickle cell anemia.
This article discusses a body of knowledge, skills, and attitudes which can help clinicians bridge the care gaps created by such barriers.
The article highlights means to overcome these barriers while performing diagnostic interviews, completing mental status examinations, and selecting and implementing pharmacologic and psychosocial treatments.
The end result of acquiring relevant cultural knowledge will be, for the psychiatrist, an enhanced ability to provide culturally competent care, which is an increasingly common requirement of professional societies, regulatory agencies, and licensing and accrediting organizations.
Before moving on to more clinical grounds, a few basic definitions are in order.
This is an area in need of much research if we are to understand basic clinical facts such as the gross variation in incidence and prevalence of major psychiatric disorders observed as a function of a given population ethnic origin, migratory status, and/or acculturation pressures.