Cultural identity issues
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What are cultural identity issues?

Cultural issues cover a broad range of concerns including race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and disability. Culture is a term that we use to refer to beliefs and customs employed by a particular group. Cultural identity issues have a relationship to mental health both in terms of different attitudes to wellbeing, self, personality and family, as well as issues surrounding struggles with identity and feelings of belonging. It can be difficult to find your place in two different worlds and to feel that you are accepted when you are a minority in one. 

Who might have difficulties with their cultural identity?

Some people experience confusion about their identity as first or second generation immigrants, especially where their upbringing was different from their ethnic and cultural background or that of their parents. It can be hard growing up different in a majority culture, or not being able to identify with the culture of their background. Meeting the expectations of two different cultures can put pressure on the individual. Immigrants and their children may struggle with adjustment or experience discrimination in such areas as school, work and other closed communities.

People with mixed-race backgrounds may also have issues with cultural identity. A 2014 report – Mixed Experiences – growing up mixed race: mental health and wellbeing – found that those with mixed-race backgrounds were more at risk of mental health issues because of their struggle to develop an identity. 

There may also be specific challenges in mental health diagnosis and treatment because of different cultural understandings of mental health, the role of family and religion. In some cultures the stigma of mental health is even greater than it is in the culture at large.

How can therapy help?

Therapy is not one size fits all, but you can find a therapist who is sensitive to cultural diversity and difference and/or familiar with the client's ethnic background and language. You can look for a therapist who speaks your language using the Welldoing directory; you can also use our questionnaire to filter by BAME and LGBTQ+ affirmative therapists. Your therapist will be able to support you, whether your feelings are related to issues around your cultural identity or a different, underlying problem.

Find a therapist to talk through cultural identity issues

Further reading

The mental health toll of racism

Disability and society: how have things changed?

Why I specialise in supporting immigrants with their mental health

What's in a name? A therapist's reflections on belonging and identity

Last updated 29 March 2022

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