“Music is my solace. I play piano and sing. Music has definitely saved me.”
Humans are cultural beings. The first connections with culture are usually made within the family; they influence the way we see ourselves and what we think is important.
Your family and cultural background shape your attitudes about mental health and wellbeing: how you are taught to cope with problems and difficult situations, how you talk about them, who you talk about them to, and how you seek support. Your culture may also shape how you relax, practise self-care, and resolve conflicts.
Living in a community that rejects aspects of your culture – such as identity, beliefs, or sexual orientation – can have negative impacts on your wellbeing. If you live where the dominant culture is different from, or lacks tolerance to your own cultural heritage, or you have parents from different cultural backgrounds, you may experience some conflict around your cultural identity.
Being disconnected from your cultural heritage can lead you to question who you really are and where you belong. This may cause you to feel lost and isolated. Connecting with culture can have a positive impact on your sense of belonging and identity – and in turn, on your mental health and overall wellbeing.
Read more about looking after your wellbeing on our meaningful life pages.
A closer look
People from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds often find great value and meaning in maintaining activities that align with their cultural background. This has been found to increase positive emotions and feelings and positively influence social connections with others. When children are able to practise and share aspects of their culture, they feel good about themselves and learn about and appreciate our human similarities and differences. (Source 1) (Source 2)
Singing and dancing can increase happiness
The creative expression of culture can improve mental health. Dancing can increase self-esteem, and reduce anxiety, depression, bodily aches and pains. Singing, especially in groups, releases the pleasure hormones in the brain called endorphins as well as oxytocin, which builds feelings of trust and bonding. Engaging in the arts in any way for at least two hours per week is associated with having good mental health. (Source 1) (Source 2) (Source 3) (Source 4) (Source 5)
Reconnecting to culture can improve social and emotional wellbeing
White colonisation resulted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples’ separation from country and kin and the loss of connection to traditional cultural practices. This continues to have a major negative impact on their social and emotional wellbeing. Reconnection to culture is seen as one of the cornerstones of recovery from intergenerational trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. (Source 1) (Source 2)
Mental health is often viewed through a cultural lens
A person’s attitude to mental health may be influenced by their cultural background. Many cultures have explanations for the cause of mental health issues, such as possession by an evil spirit or punishment for wrongdoings in a past life. Mental health issues carry a stigma in some cultures, resulting in feelings of fear and shame, and can prevent people experiencing these issues - or their carers and families - from seeking help. (Source 1) (Source 2)
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).