Barriers to Implementing Mental Health Services in Asian-Americans and Immigrants

Analyzing Focus Group Findings

Despite the high cases of mental health problems such as depression and suicidal ideation among Asian American and immigrant communities, mental healthcare utilization in this population remains extremely low. This pattern prompts research to explore barriers to implementing mental health services in such communities, as is the case in the week five handouts. Therefore, this research aims to analyze the themes in the handout, evaluate the current barriers to services, create social work recommendations to address one of the existing barriers, and examine how social workers can collaborate with research stakeholders to ensure accurate data interpretation and culturally- appropriate practice recommendations. The report also addresses how cultural values and beliefs may influence the understanding of the focus group data and the cultural knowledge required to conduct culturally sensitive research with the target group.

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Themes of Current Barriers to Services

Among the common themes evident in the week five handout is the patient, system, professional, psychiatry culture, and service provider-related barriers to mental health services. Notably, content analysis of the focus groups reveals that apart from patients’ cultural and financial factors, service providers’ related factors, such as lack of adequate cultural skills, knowledge, and expertise to deal with diverse patients, also compromise mental health service provision. The content analysis shows that the system-related barriers, such as changing responsibilities and financial systems between physicians and psychiatry, affect the access to and provision of quality mental health services. Besides, professional and psychiatry culture, such as how the two fields treat patients, affect clients’ decision to seek specialized care.

Analysis of Current Barrier to Services

An analysis of the themes and content obtained from the focus groups suggests that the barriers to mental health services among Asian Americans and immigrants emerge from an interaction between personal and structural factors. For example, when individual factors such as socioeconomic status, culture, and environmental aspects like stigmatization interact, they endorse barriers to mental health services (Yang et al., 2019). This information implies that besides changing the healthcare system to enhance the population’s access to the services, service providers should address some personal factors to ensure that the target group is aware of their mental health status and receive the required rapport to enhance their trust in psychiatric services.

Recommendations to Address a Current Barrier

As is evident from the content analysis, there are different barriers to access to mental health services among Asian Americans and immigrants, each of which social workers and patients can address separately. Among the recommendations to tackle some of these barriers from a social worker’s perspective is providing culturally sensitive treatment (Augsberger et al., 2015). Findings from the focus group reveal that mistrust of mental health is one factor that prevents the target population from opening up and sometimes seeking help from herbalists. Arguably, the groups’ mistrust of the system and lack of cultural sensitivity may inhibit them from seeking help from mental health professionals. Therefore, to make clients comfortable during service provision and encourage them to open up about issues affecting them, the psychiatrist should ensure that their treatment is well-suited for the target population.

The second recommendation for addressing the current barrier to mental health care is receiving appropriate training to provide holistic services to the culturally diverse population. As the literature suggests, clients, especially Asians, often desire more holistic services focusing on mind-body integration (Augsberger et al., 2015). This information may explain why the group seeks herbalists’ help first and considers mental health providers a last resort because the former likely offer holistic services. Hence, to encourage the target population to seek mental health services, professionals should undergo cultural training to help them understand the diverse and best holistic treatment options, such as yoga and mindfulness training for their clients.

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Stakeholder Collaboration

As a social worker, gathering and interpreting data accurately are vital for informing clinical practice. Therefore, it would be crucial to collaborate with the research stakeholders to ensure that appropriate data is gathered and interpreted accurately and that practice recommendations made during practice are culturally relevant. I would collaborate with research stakeholders through data sharing and fostering their participation in formulating clinical practices. As the literature suggests, engaging communities and community organizations are vital in promoting effective social work practice (Gutierrez & Gant, 2018). Arguably, collaborating with community members may help the social worker understand their unique needs and formulate clinical practices that fit the former’s culture. Besides, as a social worker, I can collaborate with other research stakeholders, such as service providers, through data sharing. Arguably, primary care providers are the first point of contact with patients and tend to spot early signs of mental health issues among their clients. Therefore, promoting data sharing with this group can help the social worker prevent personal bias, understand some of the data related to their clients, and interpret it accurately from other stakeholders’ lenses.

Culture and Data Interpretation

Fundamentally, I believe that my cultural values and beliefs may have influenced how I interpreted the focus group data by shaping the meaning of some of the focus group’s utterances. For example, when the participants mentioned that “but also a lot of my patients have a fear of going to psychiatrists,” I interpreted this information as meaning that patients can visit mental health professionals when persuaded. However, they avoid doing so because of factors associated with psychiatrists, such as the high costs of services. My cultural belief mainly influenced this interpretation that Asian Americans and immigrants often lack access to care because of their economic status; therefore, their fear of going to psychiatrists may be based on financial constraints. Nevertheless, I believe that obtaining knowledge of my cultural assumptions may help conduct culturally sensitive research with the focus group because I can identify how my beliefs diverge from those of the target group.

 

References

Augsberger, A., Yeung, A., Dougher, M., & Hahm, H. C. (2015). Factors influencing the underutilization of mental health services among Asian American women with a history of depression and suicide. BMC Health Services Research, 15(1), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-015-1191-7

Gutiérrez, L. M., & Gant, L. M. (2018). Community practice in social work: Reflections on its first century and directions for the future. Social Service Review, 92(4), 617–646. https://doi.org/10.1086/701640

Yang, K. G., Rodgers, C. R. R., Lee, E., & Lê Cook, B. (2019). Disparities in mental health care utilization and perceived need among Asian Americans: 2012–2016. Psychiatric Services, 71(1), 21–27. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.201900126

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