ESCAP 2015 Madrid State of the Art lecture

Tackling cultural issues in adolescent mental health

Olayinka Olusola Omigbodun. Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CCAMH), Nigeria.

M3-02 – State of the Art Lecture, Monday June 22nd 2015, 11.30 AM


Culture affects and influences all domains of human life including mental health or wellness, as well as mental illness. In relating culture to adolescent mental health and illness, a major challenge may be with the attempt to define adolescence in the light of various cultural influences on human development. This may prove to be disadvantageous to the adolescent experiencing rapid physical, psychological and social changes within a culture where this phase of life lacks definition and focused study.
Culture impacts help-seeking behaviour, pathways to care, the choice of who, where and when to approach for care, the process of care and the overall management of the individual seeking care. The social context within which illness develops also has an important effect on how it is interpreted and managed. This address identifies various avenues through which culture interacts with adolescents through the mental health spectrum, from the experience of wellness to mental health problems, mental illness and disability. The possible impact of culture on adolescents’ feelings of mental wellness, mental illness, presentation, care pathways, therapeutic relationships and gender roles are illustrated in the context of mental health and illness. Available evidence suggests that cultural variations of symptomatology, the context within which illness is experienced and variations in pathways of care during the critical period of adolescence affect mental health outcomes.