Cultural Awareness

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How might developing cultural competence improve mental health services?

Word Count 1692

Submission Date – 27th November 2012

Culture plays an important part in the development of a persons’ identity, relationships and influences behaviour (The Open University, 2010, p.74). Spencer (2003) states that the UK has become more culturally diverse based on varying factors such as economic, social and cultural globilisation; as a result of globilisation processes, boundaries that traditionally separated groups and individuals are slowly eroding (The Open University 2010, p.76). It is therefore imperative that mental health practitioners have an understanding of the role cultural competence plays in enabling service providers to respond to culture in a sensitive way (The Open University 2010, p.92). For the purposes of this piece of work I will define cultural competence and discuss how this could be developed to improve mental health services. This will include elements of the K272 course model, a framework that looks at mental health from a holistic perspective. Furthermore, I will explore the development of services in relation to cultural competence and the challenges faced by those involved both as service users and as service providers.

Cultural competence can be defined in an assortment of terms and this in turn can have a varying effect on outcomes for individual service users and service providers (Papadopoulos, 2004). While it can be difficult to find a definition altogether acceptable by all parties, for the purpose of this written piece the model developed by Papadopoulos et al (1998) highlights the aspirations of cultural competence and looks at the attitudes and skills necessary for ongoing development. Papadopoulos et al. (1998) states that cultural competence is developed as a result of people gaining awareness, knowledge and sensitivity in relation to diverse cultural identities (The Open University 2010, p.94).Cultural competence encompasses three different elements: Cultural awareness: the examination of one’s own personal values and beliefs, an understanding of cultural identity and recognition of the influence these factors play on mental health practices and beliefs (The Open University, 2010, p.93). Cultural knowledge: enhancement of knowledge within ethnic groups different from your own can improve your knowledge of their own mental health beliefs and behaviours and in turn learn from one another. (The Open University, 2010, p.93) Cultural sensitivity: can be described as the way in which professionals deliver care, showing empathy, trust, acceptance, respect, appropriateness and communicating effectively. (The Open University, 2010, p.93) Culturally competent nurses can be seen as ‘comfortable’ with diversity present between themselves and other individuals. Nurses are governed by and regulated by The Nursing Midwifery Council which provides clear guidance within ‘The Code’ to adhere and uphold these ethical principles and values (NMC 2008). Service users may not be regulated by ‘The Code’ but may be governed by their own perceived ethics and principles based on previous life experience, culture, religion, education etc (O’Hare, 2012). It is therefore important to show awareness and sensitivity in this particular area especially in relation to social roles, relationships, health promotion and illness prevention. Current NHS policies indicate that patients and communities should be central to service provision, this is highlighted within national service frameworks and the NHS Plan (DoH 2000) covering various healthcare including mental health (Cortis, 2003). In addition, the Government states that services for mental health should be non-discriminatory and appropriate to need; this is based on a document called Inside Out: Improving Mental Health Services for Black and Minority Ethnic Communities in England (The Open University, 2010, p86). Browne (2009) argues that although there is movement...
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