Sometimes, people who speak the same language need a translator. Consider that in the U.S., pants are a garment worn freely in public, while in the U.K., pants are considered to be an (ahem) private affair. The nuances in language don’t stop at clothes: from the U.K.’s national health to care to the U.S.’ employer-based health care, seemingly minor regional differences can have a profound influence on the effectiveness of mental health treatment.

Language, culture, and mental health care

Choosing localized therapy from a provider who understands their patient’s cultural and linguistic cues is vital. Cultural norms and expectations have a strong influence on when, why, and how people seek support. Japanese celebrities, for example, report feeling immense pressure to present a perfect front and not be honest about their struggles with mental health, which often leads to tragic outcomes. This is in direct contrast to the U.S., where celebrities practically become more famous by sharing intimate confessions with their fans. 

Of course, you don’t have to be a celebrity to be misunderstood. Significant cultural differences manifest even between psychiatrists in the U.S. and the U.K., especially when it comes to delivering diagnoses. Often, a psychiatrist from each country can arrive at a different diagnosis for the same patient due to regional nuances. A British patient is probably better served by a British therapist, just as an American patient will probably benefit from a U.S.-based practitioner. 

Thanks to COVID-19, virtual teletherapy (also known as telehealth) has broken down numerous access barriers for patients around the world. Yet the difference between a therapist who truly understands a patient’s background versus one who only has an acquaintance with that patient’s culture can make an enormous difference in the effectiveness of their care.

Making teletherapy local 

Imagine trying to relay your deepest vulnerabilities to someone who doesn’t understand what you are saying. For many patients, it’s already agonizing to attempt to describe what they are feeling; having to bridge a cultural gap only adds to the stress. 

While being able to access mental health care via the internet and the phone is wonderful in terms of convenience, the most important part of the process is still the strength of the connection between the patient and the therapist. The elements that go into making this connection often are based in a shared cultural and linguistic background. Choosing a localized therapist, even if you never physically step into their office, can make all the difference in the world.

Choosing a global mental health care benefit provider 

So what should HR professionals and organizational leaders look for when selecting a benefit provider? 

  1. Global coverage 

For organizations with offices around the world, it’s important to choose a mental health provider who also works globally. Whether your workers who need care are in London or Shanghai or Sydney, your global provider will be able to recommend an excellent therapist in that employee’s area. Most importantly, with a global provider, every employee at your company will receive equal care, regardless of their latitude.

  1. Native speakers

Opening up to a therapist requires trust, and in most cases having a therapist who speaks your employee’s native language is the best way to forge this bond. Requiring a French employee to speak to an English-speaking therapist, even if that patient does speak some English, places an undesirable barrier between the patient and the therapist.

  1. Cultural matches 

Much as a Japanese celebrity experiences very different cultural pressures than an American one, matching a therapist who is familiar with the local culture of the employee helps establish both relatability and trust. It’s much easier and more efficient to speak with someone who already knows where you’re coming from.

  1. Direct access

Great global mental health providers make it easy to access their services. From teletherapy via the web or phone to being able to make appointments quickly, service should be prompt and readily accessible.

  1. Experience and compassion

No two patients are exactly alike. Great benefit providers understand that mental health treatment is a journey, not a quick detour. Healing should always be the priority, regardless of the locale.

Lacking each of these core attributes, benefit providers will not be able to truly support your global workforce. In order to be effective, mental health care should be administered in a precise, nuanced fashion that is tailored to the specific needs of each patient. 

Going local on a global scale with Spring Health

Partnering with a provider who offers a more generalized approach to matching therapists with patients only prolongs illness and racks up unnecessary costs. Choosing a flexible, experienced, and dedicated benefits provider saves money, speeds patient healing, and leads to a much more productive and healthy workforce overall.This is why Spring Health has assembled a diverse network of specialists that allow us to provide mental health care that is localized for global workforces. To understand how we can help your organization, contact us to request a demo.

Spring Health

October 14, 2020