As the United States population continues to increase in diversity, the need for cultural competence across mental health professions becomes more and more necessary. Cultural competence describes the ability to relate to several groups: race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, gender, age, disability, class/ socioeconomic status, education, and religious or spiritual orientation. Cultural competency training as part of coursework within mental health professions can help alleviate other stressors that might hinder the process of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
Let’s break this down into smaller and more understandable bits and pieces on why there is such a need. It comes down to cultural barriers and biases that continue the trend of mental health disparities within BIPOC communities to occur. Cultural barriers continue to rise despite the progression seen within the mental health field. These include lack of diversity within the field, communication barriers, inability to access services in terms of insurance coverage, mistrust, and conflicting ideas about defining illness and health.
Cultural biases also play a role in why mental health disparities within BIPOC communities continue to occur; cultural competency tackles this by addressing the discriminations against BIPOC individuals and understanding how self-awareness affects how stigmas influence their own and their client’s views. Tackling cultural barriers and biases can lead to the resolution of the following mental healthcare disparities: the inability to access mental health services, lower quality of treatment, and the lack of representation within research and study groups.
So, you might ask, what are the ways you can implement being culturally competent to your curriculum and into your lifestyle when promoting mental health wellness? Well, providers can ask open-ended questions to understand the individual’s cultural outlook, employ more mental health workers that are fluent in languages best served to the population, design culturally sensitive treatment plans, research broader study groups within the BIPOC community, and create training programs surrounding cultural understanding. With the diverse population increasing, the need to implement these within mental health programs, curriculum, and schooling is necessary to improve mental health of the United States population.