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Mental health and diversity

Life crisis rather than mental illness. This is how certain forms of human suffering are described by many immigrants in the culturally diverse neighborhood Rosengard in Malmö in southern Sweden, an attitude that might help explain the underconsumption of psychiatric care in culturally diverse neighborhoods.

In 2005 researchers at Malmö University carried out an extensive survey of Rosengard residents' consumption of psychiatric care. It showed that residents of Rosengard consumed half as much psychiatric care, in relation to projected needs, as the rest of Malmö's population, a circumstance that has served as a foundation for Karin Invgarsdotter's dissertation Mental Health and Diversity-Research on Human Suffering and Resiliency in Multi-cultural Context (in Swedish).

Ingvarsdotter, a researcher at Malmö University, has examined views on mental illness among people working and living in Rosengard.

"It turns out that mental illness is closely associated with shame and stigma, but also that people often see what we call mental illness as natural life crises. If mental suffering is regarded as natural life crises rather than medical problems, then there will of course be consequences for what type of support and assistance people will look for.

"Conditions that are considered manageable are often seen as life crises. It's only when the situation becomes untenable, and neither the individual nor the people around him or her can solve the problem, that people turn to psychiatric care," explains Ingvarsdotter.

Instead of seeking psychiatric help, people therefore turn to family, friends, and other social networks. Many people also see faith and religion as a treatment strategy. Ingvarsdotter stresses the importance of introducing the concept of resiliency in research.

"Today we work in a Western tradition. You could actually turn it around and ask instead why Malmö residents in other neighborhoods overconsume psychiatric care," she says.

For further information, please contact Karin Ingvarsdotter at mobile phone: +46 736 - 16 31 11.

idw :: 26.05.2011