Mental health is asocially initiated, as well as socially demarcated concept that is present inall different societies, groups and cultures.
Thereare many ways in which the nature of mental health is hypothesized whichlargely involves looking at the causes of the health problem and finding a balanceas to what can be determined as a healthy or an unhealthy mind which would thenhelp to determine the right type of treatment. There are many factors which are/shouldbe implemented when trying to determine the right type of treatment and thiswould include looking at the variety of class, political and religious background(s)as well as the cultural variances from one individual to another. However, thisis not always applied which has ended up widening the gap between the understandingof mental health in certain communities and the ways in which an impactedindividual can receive help. In this essay, I will be exploring the culturalimplications that prevail when discussing mental health, primarily focusing onthe reaction it garners from the Asian community and why there is such a largestigma on mental health issues within this particular community which willinclude looking at the disparities in discipline between different ethnicitiesand the importance of discipline culturally. Mental health is an issuethat has an impact on people of all genders, race, and ages; every generation hasa different way of viewing the stigma that surrounds the mere term of ‘mentalhealth’. When looking at mental health and the stigma that is frequentlyaccompanied with the issue, it is often found that many people of ethnicminorities choose not to reach out and there are many underlying reasons forthis, but conducted research has time and again proven that the largest causefor people of colour/ethnic minorities to not reach out largely has to do withtheir cultural upbringing and teaching regarding the mind and body. MarciaCarteret (2012, Dimensions of Culture)states that “People with mentalhealth problems in all communities’ face stigma and discrimination.
But thereare different challenges and cultural issues in different communities” In many ethnic communities,there is a lack of understanding about the seriousness of mental health whichusually results in a lot of it being misunderstood for disobedience andunnecessary fragility. But the discrimination can root from the culturalstandards an individual has been bought up with which differs from ethnicity toethnicity. The most importantentity in the Asian community would be the concept of discipline. Discipline is definedby Oxford Dictionaries as “The practice of training people to obey rules or acode of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience”.
In many ways,discipline within the Asian community can add to the stigma surrounding mentalhealth as a large part of Asian society to surpass in all aspects of life;Asians as individuals tend to view the mind and body in a holistic therefore itstands to reason that the idea of having somewhat of a complication in mindwill cause a complication in everyday life. They are therefore taught todiscipline themselves in all aspects of life and can fail to identify or admitthat the pressure of having to excel is placing stress on them mentally. Thiscan also be due to the way discipline is used in the community; it differs fromthe use of (physical) strength as it is a method used to convince the mind andbody that they are being guided as opposed to moulded to fit into societalstandards, as a result making it feel as though it is a natural behaviour forthem to adopt and that anything outside of excelling is to some extentabnormal.
The impact that theidea of discipline can have on a community as a whole has been present frompast generations and passed on to newer generations both consciously and subconsciously.Foucault states that “Discipline ‘makes’individuals; it is the specific technique of a power that regards individualsboth as objects and as instruments of its exercise. It is not a triumphantpower…it is a modest, suspicious power, which functions as a calculated, butpermanent economy.
” From this, we can interpret the cause and effect behindthe idea of discipline within the Asian community. There is a stereotype builtaround each and every ethnic minority with the stereotypical Asian individualhaving to live up to the standards of surpassing in all aspects possible –throughout the many stages of life, the Asian community in particular disciplineboth mind and body in order to be able to meet the standards that are set forthem; what was initially expected of a group of individuals became the norm forthe community and is being implemented and passed down from generation togeneration as behavioural standards thus reinforcing the idea of a permanenteconomy. The concept behind it is that the individuals that meet the standardsset for them by either their elders or society make up the ideal economy.
Theidea of discipline therefore reflects on some, if not all, characteristics ofgeneral life for the community. According to mental health charity Time to Change Adherence to social norms is the key to achieving andmaintaining respect and standing within the community. These include doing wellacademically, being married, having children and being employed. Living outsideof these norms, whether through poor academic achievements or having a mentalproblem can be considered abnormal and damage the reputation and standing ofthe person with the mental health problem and their immediate family,reinforcing feelings of shame and the need for secrecy.
This statementhighlights a valid reason as to why mental health is an issue in the community.Somehow, the actions of the individual not only reflect upon themselves but canalso fall on the shoulders of their (immediate) family which can cause difficultiesin both the long run and the short run in the community, giving individualsmore of a reason to not speak up about their problems. This links back to theidea of discipline and also brings us to the topic of honour.
In an Asiancommunity, discipline would include outshining and outshining would mean a goodname and image hence leading to honour. On the other hand, if someone wasstruggling to achieve/fit the mould due to an illness such as anxiety ordepression, it would be see as an act of disobedience from the individual. Inother words, discipline is rewarded but as mental health, which can be seen asan act of disobedience, is not which is why many people tend to remain quiet onthe subject. In relation to the idea of an act of disobedience, there are otherfactors which can widen the gap in the cultural understanding of mental health,one of these factors being the fact that there is a misconception about thecauses of mental health.