Individualism a Risk Factor for Depression


Findings from a survey of 6,082 individuals, designed to explore racial and ethnic differences in mental disorders, reinforce the relationship between social support and depression. The authors suggest a re-examination of “the individualistic models of treatment that are most evaluated in the United States. The lack of evidence-based data on support groups, peer counseling, family therapy, or other social support interventions may reflect a majority-culture bias toward individualism, which belies the extensive body of research on social support deficits as a major risk factor for depression.” The study appears in Ethnicity & Disease.

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Shim, R., Ye, J., et al; “Racial/ethnic disparities, social support, and depression: examining a social determinant of mental health.” Ethnicity & Disease, 22(1) 15-20

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Very good point. One doesn’t need to be a different colour, just come from a different cultural background for this to be true. As someone coming from an East-European background, I found it very difficult to fit in the western culture and to accept its values which were totally different from those I had been brought up with. I felt like a fake trying to adapt to the society I was living in. You realise after a while that even a lot of well meaning people don’t understand and want to change you to fit their standards. I think I became depressed for a while until I accepted the fact: that we are different and it doesn’t matter.

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