How Different Cultures View Mental Illness

Historically, physical health has been a more straightforward and tangible aspect that society has been able to identify and diagnose. However, stigmas still surround mental health all around the world. Due to this stigma, more than half of people in the United States with mental illness don’t receive help for their disorders. The fear of being stigmatized causes people to prolong treatment.

Attitudes toward mental illness vary around the world. A mix of nature and nurture affect our point of view toward mental illness. Familiar and cultural teachings often influence beliefs about the origins and nature of the mental illness. This inherently shapes attitudes towards the mentally ill. Therefore, understanding differing worldviews \ about mental illness are essential for the implementation of effective mental health care.

We will explore how different countries and cultures around the world view mental illness.

United States

Mental health mind map flowchart, health concept for presentations and reports

Known for a competitive and fast-moving style of living, Americans have developed a stigma surrounding mental health. The fast-paced lifestyle leaves Americans little time to give themselves the self-care needed to treat the possibility of undiagnosed mental illness. However, new studies show that millennials are more proactive when it comes to seeking mental health care. This is a stark difference from previous generations, as 68% of Baby Boomers have reported that their mental health is excellent.

The main catalyst of this shift in opinion amongst younger generations is Americas’s focus on celebrity culture. Many American celebrities have begun to share their experiences with mental health issues on social media. Their activism has caused a discussion to sow more fostering environments and it has even pushed legislation forward


While Canada is often lauded for its universal healthcare system, the country lacks a bit when it comes to effective mental healthcare. 1 in 5 Canadians live with a mental illness, but over 60 percent will not seek treatment out of fear of being stigmatized. However, psychotherapy waitlists are long and limited. The lack of efficiency leaves over 35% of Canadians feeling as though they didn’t receive adequate therapy.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada created the Opening Minds initiative, which aims to reduce discrimination by changing negative behaviors and attitudes often associated with mental health problems and mental illnesses. This program gives people the knowledge and skills to confidently seek the help they need and assist another person until the crisis is resolved or appropriate support or treatment is found.


Australia has been praised for its hands-on approach toward mental health. The Australian government has passed significant policies for its citizens to receive proper mental health care. As early as 1992, the Australian government passed the National Mental Health Strategy. This strategy aimed to improve the lives of people with mental illness and caregivers throughout the country. This measure helped reduce the impact of mental disorders and ensure rights to those affected with severe mental illness.

One of the distinctive characteristics of Australian mental health care is the push for community-based care versus institutional levels of care. This shift in health care has caused inpatient care to drop to manageable numbers for mental health care services around the country.


When it comes to mental illness, China has a long way to go. Mental illness in China ranks second in the world. This prevalence can be felt by 17.5% of adults who state that they have a form of mental illness.

One University of Maryland study examined young Asian Americans and their point of view toward mental health. The young participants felt tremendous pressure from their families to be academically or professionally successful. In order to stay focused, this participant felt the need to push their mental health aside. Culturally, they expressed that mental health is taboo and rarely spoken about amongst friends.

In an effort to improve matters, China’s National Planning Guideline for the Healthcare Service System promoted direct measures that include the improvement of mental health services and mental health education. This is a sign that China is making slow but positive changes for its people.

Countries Throughout the Middle East

According to a recent global study, the Middle East experiences the highest rates of depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and suicide. Furthermore, there is a lack of awareness about mental health, limited mental health services, and stigmatization which worsens the situation.

There is a dire need to increase mental health awareness in the Middle East, in order to overcome the growing rate of depression and other related mental health issues in the region. As there are many people suffering in the area due to unstable political situations, people lack the education needed to address their turmoil or empathize with those around them. Therefore, stigmatization runs rampant.