Cultural and religious factors on mental health perceptions and attitudes among Indian Orthodox Christians in the United States.
Varghese, Miriam S.
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Culture and religion play a significant role in the development and maintenance of mental health stigma. They influence beliefs about the causes of mental illness and also impact willingness to seek treatment. In the United States, little is known about the psychological adjustment of South Asians, particularly Indian immigrants and first generation Indian American Christians. In this study, I investigated the effect of acculturation, ethnic identity, and religious commitment on stigma, etiological beliefs about common childhood and adolescent psychological disorders (attention deficit- hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, and autism), and help-seeking attitudes in the Indian Orthodox population. Forty-six Indian immigrants and 64 first generation Indian Americans completed electronic or paper questionnaires assessing their level of acculturation, ethnic identity, and religious commitment. Participants also completed measures on stigma, help-seeking attitudes, and causal beliefs (biological, psychosocial, and spiritual). The results showed that religious commitment was negatively associated with stigma and positively associated with help-seeking attitudes. Participants who rated high on acculturation endorsed biological underpinning for ADHD, autism, depression, anxiety, and alcohol abuse. Previous knowledge of mental illness was linked to fewer ratings of spiritual causes for ADHD, autism and depression, but religious commitment was associated with increased ratings of spiritual causes for alcohol abuse.