Papers from the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conferences

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This study compared cultural variances in the understanding of depression, help seeking and management strategies between Anglo-Australians and Sri Lankan immigrants with depression, one of the fastest growing immigrant communities in Australia. From 2012-2104 Sri Lankan (n=18) and Anglo-Australians (n=30) participants living with depression took part in semi-structured interviews. Participant eligibility was verified by significant levels of depression on the DSM IV and K10. Sri Lankans and Anglo-Australians expressed overlap in the experience in symptoms, yet differences in beliefs related to the etiology of depression; in general, Sri Lankan migrants attributed depressive symptoms to ongoing social problems whereas Anglos-Australians generally conceptualized depression as a biomedical disorder. These disparities in illness beliefs influenced help seeking trajectories; Sri Lankans favored self-directed behavioral interventions, and in many cases were hesitant take medication to address mental health issues as this was seen as an admission of “madness.” In contrast early intervention via primary care was common for Anglo-Australians. However, while a significant proportion of Anglo-Australians would use pharmaceutical interventions, many were also prepared to try complementary and alternative therapies. Across both groups stigma still presents a significant barrier to help-seeking, however stigma was particularly noted in the Sri Lankan community. Preliminary analyses suggest important differences in help-seeking strategies that may have implications for improving access to mental health services and the development of culturally salient interventions in the Australian context to cater for the growing Sri Lankan migrant community. The outcomes of this study will provide greater insight into cultural variances of depression and help seeking of Sri Lankan immigrants. These results may further provide valuable information that can be used more broadly in countries receiving Sri Lankan, and possibly other South Asian migrants.

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