Mental health has had many stigmas levied against it throughout history. In the Western world, many people used to find themselves placed in psychiatric facilities that were often referred to as “looney bins.” Effective treatments were few and far between, so these venues served as a way to take mentally ill people away from the general population.
In the Eastern world, poor mental health was attributed to an imbalance of Ying and Yang, the work of evil spirits or a punishment driven by one’s ancestors. Trying to seek out help was considered a weakness that affected the whole family, not just the person suffering from mental health problems.
While access to mental health treatment is much better today, there are several differences that still separate the Eastern approach from the Western.
Western Mental Health Treatment
Mental illness in the Western world is considered a chemical imbalance in the brain or viewed along the same lines as a physical disease. While access to health care, psychologists and psychiatrists is generally good, some people still feel that their poor mental health indicates a weak character. When they go in for treatment, they may receive help through talk-based therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, recommendations for lifestyle changes or medication. The exact treatment plan is unique for each person and may involve a combination of these approaches.
The individualism held up in Western society helps people seek out mental health services, as families want to make sure that their children have a good quality of life, not just excellent professional achievements. Adults in Western societies are also expected to make their own homes away from their parents, which is less common in Eastern cultures.
Certain illnesses, such as eating disorders, are more commonly found in the West. The expectations of society and the media have an influence as well. Some movements have begun to end the stigmas surrounding mental health and encouraging people to speak up about their illnesses.
Eastern Mental Health Treatment
Eastern cultures, in general, still face a lot of stigmas when someone seeks out mental health treatment. Part of the reason behind this reaction comes from older attitudes about the causes of mental illness, as well as a societal focus on accomplishment over the personal quality of life.
The view of mental health as a spiritual problem, rather than a medical problem, influences the treatment methods used in the Eastern world. They don’t have an extensive system of psychiatrists, psychologists and other types of therapists. Instead, they may turn to their family doctors who provide holistic care.
Many people opt not to seek out care because mentally ill people are considered crazy and untrustworthy. They may hurt their career prospects if companies catch wind of their visits. Some people in Eastern cultures turn to treatment options that use telemedical options, so they don’t have to go to a physical office. Medication is not often used for treatment options, and many people attempt to address the situation on their own.
Mental health understanding and treatment options still have a long way to go, although stereotypes and stigmas are slowly starting to fade away. While both Western and Eastern societies have their own struggles, Eastern cultures are more likely to attribute mental health problems to spiritual or personal failings, rather than considering them a medical concern.