The Importance of Cultural Sensitivity in Psychological Care

Two recently published items illustrate the need for greater cultural sensitivity, awareness, and customized attention with the realm of psychological care. One, a report from Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists, found that young, black women were at an increased risk of self-harm over other segments of the population. The second article, also from England, details how a new social intervention program is attempting to help British Pakistani women who deal with depression.

The first study, which focused on self-harm rates across age, gender, and cultural demographics, compared the records for almost 15,000 people from three different cities who were admitted to emergency care for self-harm. Per 1000 patients, 10.3 were young black women while just 6.6 were young white women. Among young males, cultural and ethnic backgrounds did not account of any significant difference. Young black women were also more likely to be current students (meaning higher-stress lifestyles), yet less likely to have received psychiatric or psychological care (in the form of counselors or therapists) for their struggles. Dr. Jayne Cooper, who led the research, believes that this lack of care may be the result of poor communication between staff and patients, cultural stigma against admitting depression and depressive thoughts, and the fact that many young black women are classified as “low risk” for repeating their self harm (due to low alcohol use, low existing history of self-harm, and low rates of living alone).

The second article highlights a social intervention program aimed specifically at helping British Pakistani women deal with depression. Multiple surveys have found that ethnic minorities experience higher rates of depression than do ethnic majorities. This particular program used culturally acceptable transportation, facilities, and food, as well as multi-lingual educational materials and group facilitators. At the program the women worked in group therapy to discuss their feelings, participated in physical activities, and were educated about depression. In both 3 and 9 month follow ups, the women who had undergone the culturally-sensitive group therapy and training exhibited significantly lower rates of depressive symptoms than did a similar group who was given antidepressant medications rather than the social intervention.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Joel.m

    September 3rd, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    My understanding of why ethnic minorities are at an increased risk is because most of them are away from their loved ones in a place where they are discriminated and most often are from lower-income groups compared to the native ethnic majority.

    This skew I think feeds the depression and other negative thoughts in their minds.

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