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How Your Cultural Background Impacts Your Mental Health

Racial/Cultural Identity
2 min read

Your mental health is not just an individual experience. It is the canvas upon which your collective cultural history paints.

It speaks to the many cultures inside of you, each wanting to be seen, despite the messiness. Understanding each brush stroke will help you create the art you'd like to be for a lifetime. Which cultures are painting upon the landscape of your mind & heart? 

If you were born in another country and/or have immigrant parents, your mental health is influenced by so many sociohistorical and cultural influences.

It's not just that you grew up with different customs and traditions than some of your American-born or White friends. Your very way of thinking, feeling, and moving through the world has been influenced by multiple cultures.

The messages you got outside of your home and the ways in which your family shows love seem disconnected. How can your family love you and engage in ways that are labeled so negatively? How can the people to whom you are so grateful also be the people from whom you may have inherited trauma?

Sometimes, these cultures sit harmoniously side-by-side and other times, they clash and war. These clashes are experienced as all sorts of mental health struggles: anxiety, depression, numbness, finding purpose in life, family conflict, stress and overwhelm, perfectionism, isolation, loneliness, relationship issues, and more.

And as you grow up and move through a world so foreign to some of your family, the internal divide between you and them grows and grows. You don't belong at home in the same way and yet, you also don't quite belong "out there."

Where do you belong? Where is home for you when either-or doesn't fit as well as neither-nor.

Your experience matters. And you are not alone. There is grief in EVERY immigrant story but there is also hope and possibility.

- Therapist Pauline Yeghnazar Peck


About the therapist: Pauline Yeghnazar Peck, M.A., M.M.F.T., Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist in CA and NY with a private practice in Santa Barbara. Specializing in anxiety, life transitions, trauma, and multicultural issues, she works with Millenial and Gen Z individuals and couples to create the love, work, and lives they feel happy to call their own.