It is often difficult for Chinese immigrants in western cultures to modify deeply entrenched traditional convictions (Angle & Thoits, 1987). Since a dominant belief is that the body must be harmonious for mental balance (McMHAP, 1996), many do not differentiate between mental and physical illness (McMHAP, 1996). They do not use psychological terminology and have difficulty understanding the western concept of mental illness (McMHAP, 1996). Many only describe somatic aspects when presenting to general practitioners with psychopathology (McMHAP, 1996). Physician perceptiveness is vital to prevent mis-diagnosis (McMHAP, 1996). Public education to reconcile conflicting perspectives is necessary to remedy underutilisation of mental health resources in the West by immigrants (McMHAP, 1996). Treatment will only be sought and adhered to if it is consistent with the individual's socio-cultural construction of reality (Chrisman & Kleinman, 1983 in Angle & Thoits, 1987). An empathetic health care professional, with understanding of the patient's beliefs can often be central in the psychotherapeutic process (Ballay, 1986; McMHAP, 1996) especially in communicating the rationale for treatment if it is different from what the patient is accustomed to (McMHAP, 1996).
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