An examination of cultural competence in youth mental healthcare providers: Perspectives of service users, treatment providers and family members

Presentation First Author: 
Shruthi Venkataraman


It is known that ethnic minority populations find it more difficult than Caucasians to access and receive appropriate mental healthcare. Fostering clinician cultural competence can help reduce this disparity. Yet, perceptions about cultural competence among persons with mental health difficulties and treatment providers remain inadequately reported in early intervention and youth mental health literature.


To address this gap, we aimed to elicit patients’ and treatment providers’ opinions regarding the importance of treatment providers’ cultural competence. Another aim was to elicit their perceptions of the degree to which treatment providers were attentive to issues of culture, religion, etc.


A validated scale measuring patients’ perceptions of physicians’ cultural competence was adapted with permission to create patient and treatment provider versions in English and French; and to add a section on “Importance”. The adapted scale included 16 domains (religion, culture, values, etc.), each rated on two 5-point Likert scales of competence (e.g. “My treatment team wants to know about my nationality”) and importance (e.g., “How important is it for you that your treatment team knows about your nationality?”). This was administered to patients and treatment providers at an early intervention program for psychosis in Montreal, Canada.


Independent samples t-tests were conducted to compare patients’ (N=33) and treatment providers’ (N=16) importance and satisfaction ratings. There was a statistically significant difference in the importance attributed by patients and treatment providers to all domains except “awareness of patients’ food/dietary habits”, with providers having higher ratings. A similarly significant difference emerged between patients’ and treatment providers’ competence ratings on eleven domains. More than patients perceived them to be, providers rated themselves as being interested in knowing about patients’ racial background, religious beliefs/practices, beliefs about mental illness, socio-economic situation, etc.


Preliminary results indicate that patients accorded little import to treatment providers’ cultural competence. We attribute this to our current sample (primarily White male) and setting (the history of the Quiet Revolution and the secularization of Quebec’s public sphere). Differences in patients’ and treatment providers’ views on the importance of providers’ cultural competence and their efforts to know about patient’s cultural/religious background, indicate a mismatch of values and perceptions. Such differences may influence mental healthcare delivery and outcomes. We will present data from a larger, more diverse sample that will also include family members and discuss the implications of our findings for ensuring that youths from diverse backgrounds access and receive appropriate mental healthcare.

Conference Name: 
Date of Presentation: 
9th Oct 2015
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