Mental Health Issues Confronting Asians in the Changing World

1993.第2卷第2期(Vol. 2 No. 2).pp. 61–69


Mental Health Issues Confronting Asians in the Changing World


Stanley SUE


The world is rapidly changing. Increased communications, exposure to other cultures through the mass media, and growing business, educational, and social contacts between different societies have created a much smaller and more interactive world. These changes have had a major impact on all professions and fields. In this paper, the author discusses contemporary issues confronting counselors and mental health professionals. The following points are made: First, human beings all experience mental health problems. Research on mental health have been conducted in all parts of Asia. Some research findings from different societies will be presented. Despite methodological and conceptual differences in the investigations, there is no question that mental health problems affect significant portions of the populations of different Asian societies. What is also clear is that Asians exhibit differences in symptom patterns, culture bound syndromes, and distribution of mental disorders. Second, the ways of conceptualizing and explaining mental health problems appear to vary according to culture. In many Asian societies, issues of shame and stigma, loss of face, social orientation, mind-body interactions, and spiritual notions are important to consider in attributions concerning mental health. Unfortunately, Asian indigenous concepts are often overshadowed by Western views and approaches. Third, cultural factors affect the use of prevention and treatment tactics. Although formal counseling and psychotherapy services are often based on Western forms of treatment, the specific forms of treatment have varied across different Asian societies. This raises the issue of whether there are universally effective forms of treatment or universally beneficial therapeutic processes. Fourth, the priority given to mental health and counseling varies in different societies. Despite growing awareness of the importance of mental health, counseling and mental health treatment are still accorded low priority in many societies. These points are used to argue that the role of counselors should be expanded and strengthened. Counselors should (1) engage in public education concerning mental health and the value of counseling, (2) find means of integrating and articulating Asian-indigenous and Western concepts and methods, (3) encourage and engage in research concerning mental health and treatment effectiveness, and (4) strengthen the coalition of counselors across Asian countries.