In the sphere of behavioral health, social workers and medical specialists often deal with culturally diverse groups of the population. They need to understand how to adapt to people with different cultural identities in order to make their services as effective as possible. Biasing and the problems of social justice are also common in any social work. This paper will illustrate different patterns of behavior in terms of receiving behavioral health services through the example of Asian and European pregnant women. Moreover, it will discuss the issue of social justice and the role of biasing in behavioral health services.
Behavioral health, and in particular, mental illnesses, is a sensitive topic, which is perceived differently depending on the values and beliefs of a certain culture. The research of Yakeley (2018) demonstrates that Asian people are more likely to experience shame when seeking behavioral health services. She connects this fact to the idea that most Asian cultures are collectivistic, which means that the shameful behavior of one person is believed to negatively influence the whole community. This attitude is less strong in Western individualistic countries, for example, in Europe. Instead, Europeans tend to feel guilt in the case of seeking help from behavioral health services (for example, if an individual tries to cope with depression or anxiety) (Yakeley, 2018). According to these findings, it is possible to suggest that an Asian pregnant woman is less likely to seek behavioral health services than a European.
In addition, for the same reason, in interaction with behavioral health service providers, Asian pregnant women may be less open about their problems than Europeans. However, in comparison to other populations, pregnant women, regardless of their cultural identity, can be more decisive in terms of accessing behavioral health services. Since their psychological well-being directly influences pregnancy and the health of a child, they may feel more responsible for solving behavioral issues.
Social justice is another aspect of behavioral health services that can be different depending on the cultural background of an individual, as well as other factors. Social justice is defined as “a political theory or system of thought used to determine what mutual obligations flow between the individual and society” (Almgren, 2017, p. 1). Therefore, it defines the equality of opportunities provided to different groups of the population seeking healthcare, social, educational, and other services. According to Almgren (2017), an important problem of social justice is to organize social institutions in a fair way that would correspond to the needs of individuals and population groups. In terms of the discussed example of pregnant women, this population group is more likely to receive timely behavioral health services due to their vulnerability.
At the same time, if these women belong to a minority group (for example, in the case of Asian immigrants in Europe), the provision of services may be delayed. Moreover, certain formal reasons, such as a language barrier, can become an obstacle for providing them with timely behavioral health services. From a more positive point of view, such clients can receive help in specialized institutions, where their special needs will be considered. Therefore, social justice can indeed influence the time, place, and quality of services in both a positive and negative way.
It is important to understand that since a behavioral health paraprofessional is likely to deal with clients belonging to different populations, biasing may influence the provision of services. When working with people, any professional can consider the issue from the point of their personal experiences and practical knowledge. Personally, I do not belong to any particular special population. However, I notice that I tend to pay special attention to people with disabilities, children, and older adults since they are considered especially vulnerable population groups. I think that such biases can influence not only the attitude towards a client but also the decision-making of a worker. Focusing on personal prejudices and attitudes, a professional may forget about factors that are more significant in a given situation. Moreover, a different attitude can make a client feel uncomfortable and anxious.
As a result, prejudice towards people of color, ethnic minorities, economically marginalized people, or other biased populations may lead to their unequal access to behavioral health services. Therefore, the awareness of biases can contribute to creating fair opportunities for people regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, culture, religion, and other factors. These aspects cannot be ignored; however, they should not cause discrimination. By raising awareness of how to deal with biasing, behavioral health institutions can make their services more customer-oriented.
In conclusion, it is possible to say that multiple factors influence the provision of behavioral health services. Firstly, cultural differences define patterns of behavior even in those who belong to one special population. Secondly, social justice allows organizing institutions in a way that would provide equal opportunities for every client. Finally, in order to provide client-oriented services free of discrimination, it is necessary to raise awareness of the problem of biasing. Consideration of all these factors guarantees the most effective work in the sphere of behavioral health.
Almgren, G. (2017). Health care politics, policy, and services: A social justice analysis (3rd ed.). Springer Publishing Company.
Yakeley, J. (2018). Shame, culture and mental health. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 1-3. Web.