Cultural Connectedness:

A Strategy for Suicide Prevention & Mental Health Management


What is Cultural Connectedness?

The Cultural Connectedness Model, created by HLN Marketing, was designed to support the wellbeing of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) mental health consumers, their families and caregivers. Most human beings will be directly or indirectly touched by the impact of mental illness at some point in their lives and for people of culturally diverse backgrounds this can involve many extra challenges.  While the majority of today’s mental health government budget funds treatment, prevention efforts are now being expanded.  Cultural Connectedness focuses on prevention to increase the ROI of treatment programs.  The mission is two-fold:


1) Ensure that every American who seeks access to mental health support services receives them in a culturally appropriate manner and

2) Ensure that those who do not seek access to mental health support services are educated, aware, and stigma free.

Cultural Connectedness combines the concepts of Cultural Responsiveness and Connectedness, to create customized care plans and support systems for every child (and young adult) in our society.  There are four pillars components of the Cultural Connectedness Model:

I.    Cultural Research

II.   Awareness & Normalization

III.  Strategic Retooling (includes Technology, Spirituality, & Mindfulness)

IV.  Community Outreach


Why it is important to be a culturally responsive service?

Greater capacity to respond to America’s growing cultural diversity

As America’s cultural diversity continues to grow, mental health service providers need to understand and respond to changes in the local communities they serve.  2018 Pew Research Center study changes include:


1) Millennials are projected to outnumber Baby Boomers by the close of 2019

2) A record number of Americans live in multigenerational households, part of a broader trend toward more shared living

3) The institution of marriage continues to change

4) After decades of decline, motherhood and family size are ticking up in the U.S.

5) There are more than 250 million migrants worldwide, with most refugees coming to the U.S. as of the end of fiscal 2017 were from the Middle East and Africa

6) New foreign student enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities doubled between 2008 and 2016

7) Among U.S.-born children with Hispanic ancestry and at least one immigrant parent, fewer identify as Hispanic.


The values, norms, traditions, religious beliefs and social structures of CALD communities may vary from those of the broader American culture, including their belief about what constitutes mental illness and how to respond to it.  This will affect if and how services will be accessed.  Since understanding mental illness as a health problem that requires medical treatment is a western concept, it can seem strange or even threatening to some people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.


People from CALD backgrounds have lower rates of voluntary mental health care when compared with the general population. They are over-represented in the group of people who are treated involuntarily or admitted for acute inpatient care. This suggests that CALD populations are more likely to access mental health care only when they become acutely and seriously unwell and are more exposed to adverse quality and safety risks.

Some of the barriers for CALD people in accessing mental health services include:


·   A lack of knowledge or understanding about mental health services

·   A stigma related to mental illness or seeking help

·   Concerns about confidentiality

·   Language barriers

·   Cultural misunderstandings

·   Previous unfavorable or negative experiences with health or other services

·   Concerns about being heard, understood or respected, especially in relation to their own explanation of their problem or issue


Some of these barriers need to be addressed by changes in how mental health services operate while others require engaging and working with CALD communities to increase knowledge, decrease stigma and improve access.


To respond to the needs of their culturally diverse communities, mental health services need to firstly understand who their CALD communities are, and then engage with them in partnership to deliver mental health services that are culturally responsive.


People from CALD backgrounds are more likely to receive poorer quality care than the general population, which may be partly due to language barriers and cultural differences between health care providers and consumers.  The result is miscommunication and misunderstandings, which may lead to errors and incidents with potentially serious clinical consequences, sometimes even death.


Racism and discrimination from health care providers (intended or otherwise) also contribute to negative experiences for CALD consumers and can result in consumer mistrust and dissatisfaction with mental health services. This can lead to lack of compliance with treatment, disengagement from care and reduced willingness to access services in the future.  All these factors can contribute to poor mental health outcomes.


What are the benefits of being a culturally responsive service provider?

When mental health services have good partnerships with the culturally diverse communities they serve, have addressed access issues by reducing barriers and improve equity of service delivery, they become more culturally responsive.


A culturally responsive mental health service can deliver:

·  Better health outcomes for CALD consumers, caregivers and their families

·  Greater access and equity for CALD consumers, caregivers and their families

·  Quality and safety, and reduced rates of adverse incidents

·  Better communication & understanding resulting in clearer expectations and improved treatment compliance

·  Higher consumer mental health literacy leading to appropriate help-seeking behavior

·  Greater consumer satisfaction and increased levels of trust, attendance and re-admission rates

·  More efficient use of resources leading to cost savings

·  Compliance with national standards and accreditation requirements

·  Improved public perceptions of the mental health service


Who implements the Cultural Connectedness strategy?

HLN Marketing has earned Georgia State Congressional Recognition for its work in Mental Health Advocacy and has been an award-winning marketing and advertising agency for the past 25 years.  Led by Mark Lawrence, a graduate of The Wharton School and Cornell University, the HLN Marketing team consists of experienced, PhD level experts and social innovators who are committed to tackling the youth mental health and suicide prevention epidemic based on need and personal family experience.


How can mental health services become more culturally responsive?

The evolution of a more culturally responsive mental health service requires organizational commitment and leadership, as well as an acknowledgement that it is an ongoing process. It cannot be viewed as a simple completion of a compliance activity with a fixed end point.


The Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia: Towards culturally inclusive service delivery (the Framework) is a national Framework that has been specifically designed for Australian mental health services under the current policy context.


The purpose of the Framework is to improve service delivery for consumers and caregivers from CALD backgrounds, ensuring equitable outcomes in access and quality of care. The Framework supports local continuous improvement practices and enables services to respond to the changing population demographics in their local catchment areas. Implementation of the Framework will not only assist services to fulfill current accreditation requirements, it will also facilitate safer and better quality services.