Addressing Barriers to Learning:
Culture-Specific Mental Health
Issues
Aitza Galarza-Hernandez
Rebecca McSwain
Elizabeth Uzcategui
OBJECTIVES
• Discuss Diversity Issues
• Describe Mental Health Concerns Related to
Diverse Populations
• Discuss School-based Intervention Ideas
Video Clip
• The Danger of the Single Story
What do you know about Native
American Culture?
• Form small groups of 4-5 participants
• Choose one person to record answers
• Group shares what they know of the given
cultural group
Native American Cultural Strengths
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Collectivistic
Resiliency
Orientation to Nature
Resourcefulness
Wisdom of Family/Tribal Elders
Communication
What do you know about AfricanAmerican Culture?
• Form small groups of 4-5 participants
• Choose one person to record answers
• Group shares what they know of the given
cultural group
African American Cultural Strengths
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Collectivistic
Family-Oriented (Extended & Nuclear)
Racial Pride
Important Role of Elders
Religious Orientation
What do you know about Asian Culture?
• Form small groups of 4-5 participants
• Choose one person to record answers
• Group shares what they know of the given
cultural group
Asian Culture Strengths
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Collectivistic
Important role of elders
Resiliency
Family-oriented (includes the deceased)
Considered the “Model Minority”
o
-Double-edged sword
What do you know about Hispanic
culture?
• Form small groups of 4-5 participants
• Choose one person to record answers
• Group shares what they know of the given
cultural group
Hispanic Culture Strengths
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Collectivistic, Cooperative Learning Styles
Bilingual/Bicultural Abilities
Family-Oriented
Resiliency
Strong Religious Beliefs
Tradition-Oriented
Emphasis on Interpersonal Relationships
Prevalent Mental Health Issues:
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Native American Culture
Asian Culture
African American Culture
Hispanic Culture
Mental Health Issues in
American-Indian Cultures
Alcoholism: ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Suicide: Major Depressive Disorder
Victims of trauma: PTSD
Homelessness: Numerous mental health issues
Utilization of Mental Health Services:
More likely to use inpatient services
More likely to use school-based services
Traditional healers provide many services
Prevalent Mental Health Issues
• Hispanic Culture
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o
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Anxiety-related behavioral problems
Depressive symptoms and distress
Increased drug use
Increased suicidal ideation
Culture-bound syndromes such as “susto” (fright), “nervios”
(nerves), “mal de ojo” (evil eye), and “ataque de nervios”
(screaming uncontrollably, crying, trembling, verbal or
physical aggression, dissociative experiences, seizure-like
or fainting episodes, and suicidal gestures)
Adjustment Disorders (differences betweeen home
environment and the world they function in)
Prevalent Mental Health Issues
• African American Culture
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Alcohol-Drug Abuse
Prone to conduct disorders
Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD)
Depression
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Aggressiveness
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Less likely to seek/receive mental health services
Socioeconomic status placed them at risk for mental health
problems
Prevalent Mental Health Issues
• Asian American Culture
• Least likely to seek help for mental health disorders due to values
self-reliance, reservation, and fear of shaming the family.
• Difficulty accessing mental health treatment due to language
issues.
• Increased risk for depression
• Social anxiety/fears
• High rates of suicide
Prevalent Mental Health Issues
• Asian American Culture
• Culture-bound Syndromes (anxieties experienced as
physical symptoms)
• Shenjing Shuairuo: stress related and experienced as
pain, numbness, fatigue, and fainting.
• Hwa-Byung “fire illness, supressed anger”: Korean folk
illness experienced as heavy feeling in chest,
sleeplessness, flushing, palpitations, and blurred vision.
What are your experiences?
Clips from The Office
School Interventions
• Although teachers are not mental health services
providers, they do play a vital role in supporting
students’ mental wellness and helping to identify and
support students who may have a mental health
problem. Specific recommendations are:
School Interventions
• Learn as much as possible about the cultural and
linguistic background of the students you teach.
• Acknowledge that within culture differences are
as important as differences between cultures.
• Allow students to share their thoughts, ideas and
feelings through the use of cooperative groups,
dialogue journals and other forms of interactive
learning.
• Enhance students’ self-image, motivation and
cultural prode by using culturally-relevant
materials.
• Invite parents and families to actively participate
in their children’s education.
School Interventions (cont.)
• Beware that families from diverse linguistic or
cultural backgrounds may not initiate requests
for help or use in-school resources available
to address mental health issues. Small
sessions to provide orientation in regards the
available resources will be necessary.
• Seek help from the resources in your building
(i.e, school counselor, social worker, mental
health worker, or school psychologist).
• Small group activities on self-efficacy and
study skills.
• Partnering with”like-minded peers”.
Strategies to Enhance Home-School
Collaboration
• Regular and positive
communication with parents
and/or guardians.
• Emphasize strengths.
• Empower the parent (e.g.,
seating arragement free of
barriers, ask open-ended
questions during conferences,
and ask for parents impressions
of the situation at hand.
Questions, Comments, Concerns
Resources
American Psychiatric Association. (2010). Asian
American/Pacific Islanders.
(http://www.healthyminds.org/More-Info-For/AsianAmericanPacific-Islanders.asp)
Mental Health: Culture, Race, Ethnicity Fact Sheets-Asian
Americans. Department of Human Services.
(http://mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/cre/fact2.asp).
Villalba, Jose A. (2008). School Mental Health Project:
Addressing Cultural Diversity in School Mental Health.
SEHAC, Wilmington, North Carolina.
Williams, Barbara Bole (2006). Culturally Competent Mental Health
Services in the Schools: Tips for Teachers.
(http://www/nasponline.org/culturalcompetence/index.html.
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