260806 Contextual influences on perceptions of mental illness: Vietnamese immigrants versus nationals

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mai Do, DrPH , Global Health Systems and Development, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, LA
Stacy Wallick, MSW, MPH , Department of Global Health Systems and Development, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
Mark VanLandingham, PhD , Department of Global Health Systems and Development, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
Bonnie Nastasi, PhD , Department of Psychology, TUlane University, New Orleans, LA
Objectives: This study assesses the potential influences on migration on mental illness related knowledge and perceptions among Vietnamese populations.

Methods: Eight focus group discussions, with a total of 81 participants, were conducted with Vietnamese Americans and Vietnamese nationals (4 in each population). Results: Mental illness was an abstract concept to participants in both locations; yet Vietnamese Americans had an easier time explaining the illness and its causes than did Vietnamese nationals. Vietnamese nationals were more likely than Vietnamese Americans to attach mental illness to specific physical health causes and symptoms, supporting a belief among many Asians that the body and the mind are parts of a unitary model. They were also more likely to attribute mental illness to karma. With regard to mental illness manifestation, Vietnamese Americans were much less likely than Vietnamese nationals to attach the illness to a specific person in the community, therefore, had a much harder time describing it. It is likely that this difference is due in part to the persistent stigma related to mental illness among Vietnamese Americans and in part to the heightened sense of privacy with mental illness as a personal matter; the latter perhaps a result of the adaptation to the modern American norms among Vietnamese Americans.

Conclusions: Significant divergences between these two Vietnamese populations with regard to mental illness knowledge and perceptions seem due to the interplay between traditional beliefs and acculturation influences among the immigrants.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1) To describe the differences between Vietnamese Americans in New Orleans and Vietnamese nationals who never left the country in their perceptions of mental illness, its causes, and manifestation, and 2) To analyze how migration to the United States may influence Vietnamese Americans’ perceptions of mental illness.

Keywords: Mental Health, Migrant Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the PI of the research described.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.