The Blog for Culture Vultures

Satiate your inner Culture Vulture with regular news and posts about cultural awareness, doing business abroad, working in a multicultural environment, HR diversity and global mobility.

Culture Shock: from the inside out

Culture Shock: from the inside out
Expats often underestimate the challenges of culture shock, and even those who've mastered adaptation are often unprepared for the adjustment the expat bubble itself demands.


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Cross Cultural Palliative Care

Cross Cultural Palliative Care



Different cultures and religions deal with the concept of death differently.  The use of medicine and health care varies across different cultures because of the beliefs of their people. Due to varying beliefs across cultures, there is a need for cultural understanding or cultural competence in medicine, especially in palliative care. ‘In medicine, cultural competence means providing health care services that are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs, practices, and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patients.’   The use of cultural competence is especially important in palliative care because people of varying cultures have very different approaches to dealing with death. (Palliative care improves the quality of life for patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease).
An organisation called the Middle East Cancer Consortium (MECC) developed a project in 2005 to raise awareness of palliative care problems faced by its members (United States and the health ministries of Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Turkey). The aim of MECC’s project is to find a common ground between these 7 countries’ methods of dealing with palliative care. Part of this project is to give palliative care training to nurses, physicians and social workers which respects the varying spiritual beliefs between the countries involved.
In many hospitals, there are now nurses who are employed because they are of the same religion and cultural background to certain patients. For example Dr. Myriam Weyl Ben-Arush, (head of the Pediatric Hematology Oncology Department at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel) has Arabic-speaking nurses and social workers, as well as those who speak Hebrew. This is to ensure that staff can be empathetic to the spiritual needs of their patients.
Taking spiritual belief into account is important when dealing with death because people of different cultures have different beliefs. For example, a Druze family believes in reincarnation and an Arab Christian person believes in Heaven. So perhaps these people will find the idea of death less difficult than someone who does not believe in any kind of life after death.
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Live in new country to challenge your creativity

Live in new country to challenge your creativity



Recent research published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology seems to suggest a truth in the long held notion that living abroad nurtures our creativity. From Byron in Switzerland to Picasso in France, cultural change has historically been seen as the way to broaden the mind and enhance the artistic senses. Now 2009 research headed by William Maddux of INSEAD really has shown that time spent engrossed in a new culture can improve our creative skills- even after we have returned ‘home’.

An initial five studies using MBA students at the Kellogg School of Management, Illinois, showed that both cognitive flexibility and negotiation skills were higher in those participants who had spent time living abroad when compared to a control group who had not. One study to solve the Duncker candle problem (where a candle must be properly attached to a wall without dripping: using a candle, a box of matches and a box of tacks) showed that those with experience living abroad were better positioned to imagine the alternative functions of these familiar objects and thus solve the problem. This could mimick the intuitive skills required when dealing with the changing levels of importance placed upon greetings, etiquette, food or clothing and so on, when living abroad.

Another study involving a mock negotiation of the sale of a gas station demonstrated that those with living abroad experience were able to be much more creative with negotiations (after the sale price had been removed as the dealbreaker). This on a much simpler level replicates the way domestic shopping differs between countries and cultures, buying spices in a Morroccan market is very different from buying clothes in a Parisian boutique.

These two examples easily portray two different skills that are invaluable to most businesses, especially given the difficulties of the current global economic climate. The need for companies to keep innovating to stay competitive makes these skills more important than ever in recruitment, meaning that potential employees with such benefits may find themselves more sought after to fill positions in businesses, especially those operating globally.

The reason for the relationship between creativity and living abroad is not altogether known, but follow-up research with MBA students in France has correlated with the earlier Duncker candle findings. Interestingly, there is no evidence that those who have only traveled abroad either possess these skills or are any better placed than those who travel domestically. This suggests that businesses might therefore benefit more from a system of extended work placements abroad, with employees based in offices in each country, rather than from repeatedly sending employees for short overseas conferences or meetings.

Moreover evidence suggests that recreating or ‘priming’ employees to remember their cultural experiences could even benefit them once they have returned ‘home’. Another follow-up study found that Parisian students were much more able to solve cognitive puzzles when recalling the cultural challenges that faced them living outside of France, when compared to the control group who were told to recall any recreational or everyday challenges they had faced.

Although this research is by no means empirically conclusive it certainly leads the way for further research and potential business initiatives; whilst asserting the message that global interaction is a collective and individual advantage to one’s life. Furthermore it is an asset to the development of modern Psychology in arguing the ‘nurtured’ acquirement of new skills beyond the constraints of Behavourism, as humans psychologically adapt to their environment.
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The Middle East Unveiled: A Review

The Middle East Unveiled: A Review



As someone in the intercultural field, a Muslim and having spent many years living, working and travelling throughout the Arab world, I am always keen to scrutinize literature aimed at business professionals seeking to improve their knowledge of the region. Donna Marsh’s “The Middle East Unveiled” is a recent edition to such literature.
With an experience of the region spanning some 30 years, Donna worked within sales, marketing and new business development across the region. Today she acts as a trainer and consultant advising companies on how to work more effectively in the region.
The major positive of the book is summed up in the title’s sub-heading, ‘a cultural and practical guide for all western business professionals’. The topics covered are very comprehensive. Ranging from the usual business practicalities and etiquette to safety and security through to what to do at the weekend. One could suggest that the author was over ambitious in the range of subjects covered however the informal and succinct writing style help the reader get straight to the point thus lightening the experience. The format of the book further allows the reader to ‘dip’ into topics rather than having to wrestle with long chapters.
I find chapters on Islam intriguing. It is not uncommon for “Western” authors to misrepresent the religion, fuel expat stereotypes or simply offer their gloss of a highly complex and colourful religion. Donna however has managed to tackle a sensitive topic with an impressive amount of clarity, accuracy and balance. The key, it appears, is her straight-talking approach to the topic and a deep appreciation of what the religion actually says on certain matters plus the various practices across the region. In short the section gives anyone a great introduction to Islam and Muslims, increasing awareness and therefore reducing the ‘fear factor’.
Any review would not be a review without some nitpicking. Two major factors stand out for me when looking for the negatives of the book.
People love case studies, anecdotes and the like when it comes to cultural information. It gives people real life examples, context and a way of applying information to situations. Each chapter could have done with an anecdote from the author’s library of experiences to help readers along the journey. This neatly brings me on to my second point.
As a woman, such anecdotes would have had even greater impact. Donna’s advantage with this book was her gender. At a time when we are fed stories of stonings, burqas, forced marriages and honour killings this was an opportunity for a woman to bring across her story of the Arab world. Women in business tend to shy away from the region; a real and honest assessment of a Western woman’s role in the Arab world could have had a great impact on this perception. Although the book does cover topics around gender differences in a useful manner, that little bit extra in terms of a woman’s viewpoint would have meant added value to the reader.
In conclusion, Donna has successfully managed to encapsulate her knowledge and experiences in this great little publication. It is current, comprehensive and most importantly useful. A ‘must-have’ for anyone looking to better their understanding of working in the region.
By Neil Payne, Kwintessential Ltd

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"Cultural Competency Key to good Healthcare"

"Cultural Competency Key to good Healthcare"


On a day when SwedishAmerican Health System was celebrating attention to quality care, members of its physician resident and nursing staffs were learning how attention to cultural diversity can play into that quality.

Dr. Robert C. Like, professor and director of the Center for Healthy Families and Cultural Diversity in the Department of Family Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J., spoke today at the hospital’s grand rounds about caring for patients from several ethnic, racial and sociocultural backgrounds as cultural competence in health care becomes more important in treating changing populations.

“A lot of people think of this as PC, or political correctness, run amok,” said Like, who traces his interest in cultural diversity back to hearing stories of his grandparents’ struggles after they immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union and Israel. “I like to think of PC as being personally and professionally caring.

“Doctors will ask ‘Do you expect me to learn about every culture on the planet?’ and the answer is ‘No, it’s not possible,’ but by communicating with each other we can learn.”

The aim, Like said, is elimination of all stereotypes.

Read more > rrstar.com
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"Cultural Competency Key to good Healthcare"

"Cultural Competency Key to good Healthcare"


On a day when SwedishAmerican Health System was celebrating attention to quality care, members of its physician resident and nursing staffs were learning how attention to cultural diversity can play into that quality.

Dr. Robert C. Like, professor and director of the Center for Healthy Families and Cultural Diversity in the Department of Family Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J., spoke today at the hospital’s grand rounds about caring for patients from several ethnic, racial and sociocultural backgrounds as cultural competence in health care becomes more important in treating changing populations.

“A lot of people think of this as PC, or political correctness, run amok,” said Like, who traces his interest in cultural diversity back to hearing stories of his grandparents’ struggles after they immigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union and Israel. “I like to think of PC as being personally and professionally caring.

“Doctors will ask ‘Do you expect me to learn about every culture on the planet?’ and the answer is ‘No, it’s not possible,’ but by communicating with each other we can learn.”

The aim, Like said, is elimination of all stereotypes.

Read more > rrstar.com
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Expat Children - Third Culture Kids

Expat Children - Third Culture Kids



In a world where international careers are becoming commonplace, the phenomenon of third culture kids (TCKs) – children who spend a significant portion of their developmental years in a culture outside their parents’ passport culture(s) – is increasing exponentially. Not only is their number increasing, but the cultural complexity and relevance of their experience and the adult TCKs (ATCKs) they become, is also growing.

When Ruth Hill Useem, a sociologist, first coined this term in the 1950s, she spent a year researching expatriates in India. She discovered that folks who came from their home (or first) culture and moved to a host (or second) culture, had, in reality, formed a culture, or lifestyle, different from either the first or second cultures. She called this the third culture and the children who grew up in this lifestyle third culture kids. At that time, most expatriate families had parents from the same culture and they often remained in one host culture while overseas.

This is no longer the case. Take, for example, Brice Royer, the founder of TCKid.com. His father is a half-French/half-Vietnamese UN peacekeeper while his mom is Ethiopian. Brice lived in seven countries before he was eighteen including France, Mayotte, La Reunion, Ethiopia, Egypt, Canada, and England. He writes, “When people ask me ‘Where are you from?,’ I just joke around and say, ‘My mom says I’m from heaven’.” What other answer can he give?

Read more > Telegraph
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Culture and Medical Care

Culture and Medical Care



The patient in Room 328 had diabetes and hypertension. But when Va Meng Lee, a Hmong shaman, began the healing process by looping a coiled thread around the patient’s wrist, Mr. Lee’s chief concern was summoning the ailing man’s runaway soul.

“Doctors are good at disease,” Mr. Lee said as he encircled the patient, Chang Teng Thao, a widower from Laos, in an invisible “protective shield” traced in the air with his finger. “The soul is the shaman’s responsibility.”

At Mercy Medical Center in Merced, where roughly four patients a day are Hmong from northern Laos, healing includes more than IV drips, syringes and blood glucose monitors. Because many Hmong rely on their spiritual beliefs to get them through illnesses, the hospital’s new Hmong shaman policy, the country’s first, formally recognizes the cultural role of traditional healers like Mr. Lee, inviting them to perform nine approved ceremonies in the hospital, including “soul calling” and chanting in a soft voice.

The policy and a novel training program to introduce shamans to the principles of Western medicine are part of a national movement to consider patients’ cultural beliefs and values when deciding their medical treatment.

Read more > Mercy Medical Centre
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Cross Culture Kids

Cross Culture Kids



I recently attended the 11th annual Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference – an idea which was first planned at a kitchen table in Indianapolis.

That kitchen table belonged to author and Cross-Culture Kid (CCK) expert, Ruth van Reken. The first conference attracted 80 delegates but this year's boasted over 200.

Almost half were first-timers, drawn from a mix of military, corporate, missionary, education and diplomatic backgrounds. Many were in the business of providing relocation services and support to transitioning families. Many were part of those families.

FIGT is always an uplifting experience and this year, though the conference was in Houston, Texas, it was testament to the global reach of the organisation that each of the plenary sessions included one person living in Europe. The three-day conference also offered more than 40 break-out sessions to choose from.

Child psychologist Doug Ota, who heads up a world-leading transitions programme at the American School of The Hague (ASH), opened the conference with a keynote speech focusing on how grief impacts on the lives of those who roam the globe.

"Grief is a messy, backward and forward process," he explained, as he shared his experience of growing up with a Japanese father and British-origin mother in California. He spoke of his loss of identity; the loss of his colleagues, friends, and even his brother, during the 16 years he has lived in the Netherlands with his Dutch wife.

Read more > Telegraph
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Documentary Series on ‘Reverse Migration’

Documentary Series on ‘Reverse Migration’


Does the country of your parents’ or grandparents’ birth fascinate you? Would you consider moving there for a better standard of living?

Britain may once have seemed like the land of opportunity, but now, with the downturn in the economy, thousands of British born people are leaving for the promise of a better life where their families came from originally – in countries like India, Africa, China, Hong Kong and the Caribbean.

In Bangalore alone, the southern Indian IT city, more than 40,000 Indian IT professionals are estimated to have arrived back from the US and UK to take up work. There are exciting career and business opportunities for people with western education and experience, and there is a growing trend of ‘Reverse Migration’ to many countries from the UK.

Ricochet, the makers of Channel 4's 'No Going Back' and “Super Nanny” are producing a new TV series that follows this trend for a new documentary series.

Four 2nd or 3rd generation British families will be given the opportunity to 'road test' a new life in the country of their parents or grandparents for several months, to find out about jobs, schools and housing. They might like it so much; they decide they want to stay.

If you and your family are thinking about making such a move, or have always wanted to find out what life would be like where your parents or grandparents come from; then please contact us on the following:

Call: 01273 224 816
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: www.Ricochet.co.uk

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2008/2009 Benefits Survey for Expatriates and Globally Mobile Employees

2008/2009 Benefits Survey for Expatriates and Globally Mobile Employees


The number of employees on international assignments has doubled over the last three years as part of the continuing trends towards globalisation, forcing employers to rethink their benefits provision.

Mercer’s 2008/2009 Benefits Survey for Expatriates and Globally Mobile Employees found that 47% of firms have increased deployment of staff on traditional expatriate assignments, and 38% had increased numbers of staff on 'nomadic' assignments.

It found that the growing expatriate culture has led 86% of respondents to consider their benefits package for expatriate staff as a medium or high business priority, with only 26% of organisations admitting to having no overarching policy for providing expatriate benefits.

Robert Lockley, principal in Mercer’s international business, said: “Establishing an international policy is essential to stay competitive, maintain geographical consistency and control costs. Even against a backdrop of economic uncertainty there is still competition for the best talent. Companies that are lax in this area will loose out.”

In terms of benefits on offer, the majority (68%) of companies surveyed keep their expatriates in host or home country retirement schemes. However, 32 percent of companies offer international retirement plans - an increase from 23 percent in 2005. Close to three-quarters (73 percent) of companies with an international plan restrict eligibility to certain expatriates who cannot be kept in the home or host plan.

Read more > Expatriates and Globally Mobile Employees
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Cross-cultural competence

Cross-cultural competence (3C), another term for inter-cultural competence, has generated its own share of contradictory and confusing definitions, due to the wide variety of academic approaches and professional fields attempting to achieve it for their own ends. One author identified no fewer than eleven different terms with some equivalence to 3C: cultural savvy, astuteness, appreciation, literacy or fluency, adaptability, terrain, expertise, competency, awareness, intelligence, and understanding (Selmeski, 2007).

Organizations from fields as diverse as business, health care, government security and developmental aid agencies, academia, and non-governmental organizations have all sought to leverage 3C in one guise or another, often with poor results due to a lack of rigorous study of the phenomenon and reliance on “common sense” approaches based on the culture developing the 3C models in the first place (Selmeski, 2007).

The U.S. Army Research Institute, which is currently engaged in a study of the phenomenon, defines 3C as: “A set of cognitive, behavioral, and affective/motivational components that enable individuals to adapt effectively in intercultural environments” (Abbe et al., 2007). Cross-cultural competence does not operate in a vacuum, however. One theoretical construct posits that 3C, language proficiency, and regional knowledge are distinct skills that are inextricably linked, but to varying degrees depending on the context in which they are employed. In educational settings, Bloom’s affective and cognitive taxonomies (Bloom, 1956; Krathwohl, Bloom, & Masia, 1973) serve as an effective framework to describe the overlap area between the three disciplines: at the receiving and knowledge levels 3C can operate with near independence from language proficiency or regional knowledge, but as one approaches the internalizing and evaluation levels the required overlap area approaches totality.

Read more > Multi-National Multi-Cultural Collaboration 
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Corporate support for the Third Culture Kid (TCK)

The good news is that organisations can provide services that facilitate successful adjustments. The cost of sending an employee and family on international assignment is substantial. For a minimal additional investment, corporations can provide pre- and post-assignment cross-cultural development programmes that reduce the stress of the move and meet the family’s needs. Specifically, such programmes help the family to understand the leaving process, the new culture(s), how to conduct themselves (socially, in business, and in daily life) more effectively in the new location, and how to manage culture shock and adjustment.

Cross-cultural programmes offer knowledge and support to the third-culture child. Many relocation companies contribute to the family’s international success by offering packages and programmes to the new assignee and family.

It is up to employers to promote the value of this to employees and their families, and to encourage them to make time for the training in the hectic schedule of an overseas move.

The employer’s organisation needs to support all the family members through the adjustment phase, which can take up to 18 months. The follow-through and tracking after the move is very important. Counselling services, coaching, mentoring, and, ultimately, a repatriation programme are other valuable options for third-culture children and their families.

Read more > TCK 
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Intercultural Cities Conference 1-3 May 2008 Liverpool

Intercultural Cities Conference 1-3 May 2008 Liverpool

An official UK event for the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008





In the cities of today and tomorrow, how can people from different cultures really live together - rather than just rub along side one another?
As part of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, the Intercultural Cities Conference, will look at migration, diversity and urban life in a fresh way.  New thinking is needed on how diverse communities can co-operate in productive harmony instead of leading parallel or antagonistic lives.

The conference is organised by EUCLID and Comedia, in association with the Liverpool Culture Company, and with the support of the European Commission and the Council of Europe.

Taking place in this year's European Capital of Culture the conference will not only provide an opportunity to look at how different cultures can live together but how mixing can be turned to economic, social and cultural advantage - key issues particularly for those responsible for planning and regeneration, the local economy, community cohesion, education and the cultural services.

The three day event  will feature various European and international speakers, such as globalisation guru Saskia Sassen, the world authority on diversity and city planning Leonie Sandercock, Lord Bhikhu Parekh, who says it is time to rethink multiculturalism, city leadership expert Carol Coletta, Keith Khan who leads the campaign to make the London 2012 Olympics an unprecedented intercultural festival, and leading European city politicians including Ilda Curti and Pascale Bonniel Chalier.

The conference format will break with convention in pursuit of maximum interaction between delegates and speakers.  There will also be the opportunity to get out into Liverpool to see some examples of intercultural dialogue and delegates can also choose from various extra activities, such as a dinner at Anfield, the home of Liverpool Football Club, featuring comedian Shazia Mirza.

Full details can be found at http://inter.culture.info/icc including the early bird booking fee, only available until 31 March
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Expatriate cultural coaching improves performance

High Expectations

Most people believe that international assignments are easy and "first-time" expatriates always start off with an excited and optimistic attitude. On the receiving end in the host foreign company, the managers and other employees have high expectations for the newcomers who bring new skills and insights. Although most of these employees have never been on an international assignment, they usually expect an expatriate to immediately perform as valuable experts. They anticipate that these new arrivals will adjust, make decisions rapidly and maneuver across cultures with ease. Most simply expect the expat to get to work immediately and to perform better than others.

 

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Understanding the transcultural consumer

Press Release, San Francisco, CA, January 06, 2008 :

“The more than 100 million multicultural consumers in the US, are not just multi-colored or multi-lingual but cross-cultural and transcultural as well. They are rapidly evolving and challenging the definition of “ethnic” or “multicultural” marketing,” says Valerie Romley, Chief Research Officer and author of "Beyond Translation; The Marketer's Field Guide to Understanding Today's Transcultural Consumer".

“What was effective yesterday is no longer relevant and what is effective today may not resonate with tomorrow’s moving targets. It’s time for marketers to go beyond relying on translation and color and language based segmentation and understand the roles that culture and context have in influencing beliefs and attitudes and driving consumer behavior.”

Read more> Beyond Translation 
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Language and Culture are issues for midwives

Language and Culture are issues for midwives
The UK's population is growing. Part of that increase is fuelled by women from other countries having children here.

And as the Local Government Association (LGA), representing 400 councils in England and Wales, outlines to a House of Lords select committee how migration stretches community services, one midwife tells how the changes affect her.


For midwife Jayne Cozens, going to work these days is also becoming something of a geography lesson.

She has worked in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, for 12 years, and her caseloads are containing increasing numbers of foreign nationals from across the globe.

Language and culture are becoming more of an issue, as Mrs Cozens' job becomes ever more multi-cultural and multi-lingual.

"It can be a challenge explaining to a 17-year-old English girl what an amniocentesis is, let alone to a teenager from abroad who doesn't speak the language," she says.

There are cultural issues, too, which midwives must handle in the course of giving their advice to non-UK nationals.

"Chinese families tend to sleep together in the same room and the same bed.

"Children, new baby, mum and dad are all together. It's what they're used to, so you go to a house and there's a couple of mattresses on the floor.

"But our advice in relation to cot death is for women to not sleep with their babies, so if you have the whole family in together then that presents a problem."

Mrs Cozens said that in the course of her work "you do learn a few words" but that this is not enough to clearly explain the full message.

Read more> Language & Culture
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Working as an expat in France

Just getting set up in your new French office? Nerve-wracking, isn't it? Here are some tips from Expatica's Culture Coach Nathalie Kleinschmit to make sure you get off to a good start and read the signals correctly in your new environment.

Let's see if you recognise yourself in Jason's tale of his stay at his multinational company's head office in Paris:

“When I got to the front desk, they told me I had to wait because they hadn’t received my badge yet. Twenty minutes went by before my manager arrived to authorize my entrance. He then walked me to my new office and and told me that a meeting was scheduled with the team at 3pm that afternoon and that, until then, I could read through the files.

I had my own laptop but couldn’t get the Internet connection to work. For the next few hours, I could see people walking by peering into my office but not a single person came in to introduce themselves to me. I went to get a coffee and discovered that the machine wasn’t coin-operated and that I needed a card. For lunch, I had already eaten in the cafeteria on previous trips and had a voucher so I was able to get a platter together. But I remember feeling quite alone and wondering if I was ever going to fit in.

Read more > Expatica
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Cultural diversity and mental health

One out of 35 people in the world is an immigrant, and in virtually every country, different languages, beliefs and cultures coexist. In this context, promoting mental health requires incorporating cultural sensitivity into mental health services and programs, experts said today at a special event held to observe World Mental Health Day 2007.

"Culture and diversity are central to the everyday perceptions, behavior, and interactions of individuals," said Dr. Carissa Etienne, Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). "It is no wonder therefore that culture and diversity influence the way that mental illness manifests itself, how individuals and communities perceive and cope with this illness, and how health care providers diagnose, treat, and care for persons with mental illness."

Led by the World Federation for Mental Health and supported by PAHO and other institutions, this year's World Mental Health Day focuses on the growing importance of cultural competency and sensitivity in ensuring effective mental health programs and services around the world.

Read more: WFMH 
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Cultural diversity and mental health

One out of 35 people in the world is an immigrant, and in virtually every country, different languages, beliefs and cultures coexist. In this context, promoting mental health requires incorporating cultural sensitivity into mental health services and programs, experts said today at a special event held to observe World Mental Health Day 2007.

"Culture and diversity are central to the everyday perceptions, behavior, and interactions of individuals," said Dr. Carissa Etienne, Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). "It is no wonder therefore that culture and diversity influence the way that mental illness manifests itself, how individuals and communities perceive and cope with this illness, and how health care providers diagnose, treat, and care for persons with mental illness."

Led by the World Federation for Mental Health and supported by PAHO and other institutions, this year's World Mental Health Day focuses on the growing importance of cultural competency and sensitivity in ensuring effective mental health programs and services around the world.

Read more: WFMH 
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