Culturally Tailored Support

Culturally Tailored Support is Necessary for Suicide Prevention

Our views and feelings about mental health and suicide differ by culture and identity, in addition to our personal beliefs and experiences. Each culture or community has its own history and norms about how to seek support and help for mental health issues, including suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

When it comes to suicide prevention and mental health support, one size does not fit all.

To prevent suicide and promote mental wellness for all, we must learn and incorporate cultural differences into our strategies for the care, support, and training we provide to individuals and communities.

Cultural Experiences Impact Mental Health

Culture influences the ways that people view and experience mental health struggles and illness, the ways people seek and access care, and can impact the quality of the people receive within healthcare systems. Some of these differences are shaped by cultural nuances and some impacts are due to racism and oppression within our society and its systems.

The norms we assume about mental health and suicidality in the United States do not apply to everyone, because nuances of the many different cultural identities represented in our country are blurred in research by the dominant culture. Providers, policymakers, and community leaders must keep in mind that generally held truths about suicide and suicidality may not hold up across cultural, racial, or religious identities.

Common Cultural Differences to Consider:

from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center

  • Acculturation and Enculturation
  • Role of the family
  • Collectivism and Individualism
  • Religion and Spirituality
  • Different manifestations and interpretations of distress
  • Cultural mistrust, stigma, and help-seeking

In addition to considering these cultural differences, consider that experiences of racism and discrimination are associated with increased depression, substance use, and hopelessness – all of which can be risk factors for suicide.

Learn About Specific Cultural Differences in Mental Health and Suicidality

Tips for Providing Cross-Cultural Mental Health Support

Acknowledge Cultural Differences
Instead of overlooking the cultural identities of those we want to support, acknowledge those differences directly and seek to understand them. This demonstrates interest and helps to build trust.

Ask About Culture AND Do Your Own Learning
You may invite someone to share about how their culture has shaped their experience or their feelings – but understand that they may not want to share with someone with less understanding or experience in their culture. Avoid asking someone to explain general facts about their culture and do your own research to gain a basic understanding.

Validate Cultural Experiences
Affirm the validity of someone’s unique experiences and feelings in their cultural identity. Validation can let someone know that you acknowledge, recognize, and support their experience.

Apologize When You Make Mistakes
Even with caring intentions, there may be times when you make missteps in your support of someone. Cultural differences are delicate, nuanced, and very important to respect. If someone approaches you about something you’ve said or done that upset them, apologize for the harm you caused and seek to do better in the future.

View Culturally Specific Resources Available in Oregon

Additional Reading/Research About Cultural Differences