According to the WHO (World Health Organization), health is a state of being physically, socially and mentally well, and not simply the absence of disease. Mental health is a vital aspect of this definition. As per their research, there are 450 million people all over the world who are suffering from some kind of behavioral, neurological, or mental problem. But how does one’s cultural view affect these people and how do these impact a person’s current mental state in terms of his access to mental health services?
Different Cultural Views
Different cultures have different views on the topic of mental illness, but historically the western and a number of other cultures view mental illness in a spiritual context. Some people believe that a mentally ill person has been possessed by an evil spirit, and still, others say that the person is cursed or under the spell of a witch.
However, most cultures agree that having a mental disorder conveys a certain stigma and brings shame to the mentally ill and to his family as well. And decades ago, a person with a mental illness was imprisoned and was not allowed to make contact with the rest of the people in his community. Often, he would even lose his chances of marrying or having children.
In the old western part of the world, on the other hand, mental illness is frequently associated with killers, criminals, and rapists, rendering a discriminatory image of the sufferer as violent, deranged, and aggressive.
Vietnamese culture considers mental illness as a type of punishment for the sufferer, as they believe in karma and that the mentally ill may have committed a crime in his past life. Its culture is more or less the same as the Chinese culture, wherein a mental disorder is perceived as someone who is possessed by a demon because he or his family has done something unpleasant in the past.
Being predisposed to these views, family members of the individual with mental illness may hesitate to seek help from others. In fact, in most rural areas, the mentally ill and his family avoid contact with other family members, friends, and medical professionals.
In Asia, although beliefs vary, the stigma of mental illness remains the same. The sufferer is condemned and not exposed to the public. This is the case in Japan, although they see mental illness as a particular weakness of a person rather than a condition. In India, it was considered as an act of the demon in the 17th century, but now it is considered to be a behavior that is deviant and unacceptable, therefore the result is the same: the sufferer is prevented from talking to the public and is placed in an asylum, with the killers and rapists.
Mental Illness Is To Be Understood, Not Judged
Undoubtedly, because of these beliefs associated with mental illness, people who are mentally ill do not have complete access to mental health services, and these sufferers have found refuge in traditional ways such as meditation, massage, and yoga.
But if people educate themselves and read more about clinical studies and research concerning how to alleviate mental and emotional problems, then we will see it differently. We will be able to look at the mentally ill with compassion, empathy, and understanding. We will surely open more opportunities for them to be treated formally, providing a better therapeutic outcome.