Mental Illness Stigma in Asian Populations Impacting Access to Counselling
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Mental illness stigma diminishes help-seeking behaviours and creates barriers for effective treatment options. Particularly affected are those from racial minorities and more specifically, the Asian subpopulation. As a result of stigma, Asian individuals of varying demographics like age, gender, education level, regional location, presenting symptoms, and generational status are differentially affected. Some of the main attitudes and beliefs that worsen stigmatization include saving face at all costs; prioritizing collective harmony; religious underpinnings of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism; and a tendency to somatise mental health conditions. According to the literature, the main issues to be addressed are twofold: improving public knowledge about mental health and access to resources; and ensuring the quality of service. Mental health professionals are encouraged to make adjustments to their therapeutic approaches that are congruent with their client’s Asian cultural beliefs and practices. Some adaptations include: mindfulness of cultural factors such as collectivistic values, hierarchical structure, nonverbal cues, and passive communication styles; and the implementation of CBT and family therapy. Recommendations for future directions of research entail bridging the gaps in literature; assessing the role of family in various Asian subgroups; and the prospect of online counselling.