Hmong Face Cultural Hurdles to Mental Health Care

Hmong Face Cultural Hurdles to Mental Health
Care,
Kaomi Goetz, Minnesota Public Radio
The state of Minnesota is home to approximately 42,000 Hmong
immigrants and their offspring. The journey they’ve made from a
peaceful tribal existence– through a devastating war and into a
life in a strange new land–has not been an easy one. Imagine
stepping from the real world into a science fiction movie and
trying to cope with the massive changes instantaneously. As Kaomi
Goetz reports for Minnesota Public Radio, this
cultural gap is particularly vast in terms of medical treatment,
especially in the area of mental health. There is no word in the
Hmong language for ‘mental illness,’ and their prescribed treatment
for what they believe to be possession by evil spirits would be
called ‘primitive’ by most Western doctors. Hmong traditional
medicine often calls for a shaman to be summoned to cast out or
appease a patient’s inner demons. While their religious beliefs
must be respected, many health care officials decry the risk in not
assessing the presence of mental illness as a disease. This
misunderstanding proved deadly recently, when a paranoid
Schizophrenic Hmong woman stabbed to death her two children.
–Al Paulson
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