FIG1 Not long ago, David
Henderson, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard University,
treated a Japanese student from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(MIT) for depression.
Shamsah Sonawalla M.D., chaired the symposium on ethnic and cultural
aspects of mood and anxiety disorders.
Yet after he gave the student a prescription for an antidepressant, the
student did not return for a follow-up visit. Concerned about the student,
Henderson contacted the dean at MIT. The reason the student failed to come for
the follow-up, it turned out, was that he had decided that he was not very
depressed because he had been given only one prescription, not multiple ones,
which would have been the case in Japan.
In other words, no matter how much psychiatrists know about cultural
differences among patients, there is still more to learn, Henderson indicated
in a symposium at APA's 2006 annual meeting in Toronto in May.
"It makes our lives as clinicians challenging, that's for
sure," symposium discussant Gregory Fricchione, M.D., declared.
Fricchione is director of the Division of International Psychiatry at
Massachusetts General Hospital.
To speed psychiatrists on their journey of learning more about cultural
differences among patients, speakers presented some valuable insights gleaned
either from their personal experiences or from studies that they had
conducted. For example:
These "practical tips for harnessing an individual's cultural
beliefs, support systems, et cetera, toward treatment" were some of the
symposium highlights, co-chair Shamsah Sonawalla, M.D., an assistant professor
of psychiatry at Harvard University, told Psychiatric News.
"The most impressive notion [of the symposium]," Fricchione
believes, "was that modern psychiatry in the United States must become
more sophisticated in its evaluation and management of diverse populations
that increasingly seek treatment in our centers. This is because, while there
are certainly psychiatric conditions that all groups share, with common
symptom clusters and treatment responses, there are also important differences
that will impact on patient access, compliance, and response to