3 Things to Know About Culturally Competent Mental Health Support

When it comes to peoples’ perspectives on mental health, there are many factors at play. In an episode of our Turning Points: Navigating Mental Health podcast, we connected with mental health experts of diverse backgrounds on the role of culture in shaping perspectives on mental health and mental health journeys.

Here we’ll explore some of those nuances, as well as barriers to mental health support and how employers can offer meaningful assistance.

Mental well-being looks different for different groups

Because background and culture heavily shape perspectives on well-being, mental health can look widely different for different people.

Krystle Canare, deputy director of the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, shares insights from Philippine culture suggesting that mental health thrives when individuals feel connected and supported by their community. Dr. Earl Turner, clinical psychologist and founder and executive director of Therapy for Black Kids, provides perspective growing up in a Christian Baptist community. “Within our culture, spirituality and faith are oftentimes integral to how we think about our well-being and mental health,” explains Dr. Turner.

Understanding the value of culturally competent care

Because of factors like unique cultural practices and experiences, mental health support can be most beneficial, and most comfortable, when it comes from professionals of a shared background.

Support from a professional who understands your background helps create a sense of safety, notes Dr. Turner. “It’s less likely that your therapist is going to engage in some microaggressive types of behaviors, or that you’re going to have to explain a lot about your history and some of those lived experiences that you have,” he notes. Canare adds, “The whole idea of colonial mentality, the impact of colonization in the Philippines… it takes much longer for me to explain to people that may not necessarily resonate with that right off the bat and understand it right away.”

Overcoming challenges in accessing mental health support

In addition to financial constraints and a lack of diverse providers, stigma can stand in the way of individuals both seeking and finding mental health support. “A lot of times there is some stigma within many communities, and I think historically in the black community, that therapy and mental health has not been something that we sort of thought was for us,” Dr. Turner notes. Employers can help overcome these challenges by addressing stigmas, promoting workplace well-being and offering resources.

Staying educated on cultural nuances in mental health, creating a culture of understanding and offering solutions in the face of real barriers can help employees of color feel supported at work. Keeping these tips in mind can allow employers to offer meaningful assistance and create an inclusive environment for all their employees.