Kevin L. Nadal, Ph.D.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice- City University of New York
Multicultural Competence
Filipino American Cultural Values and
Filipino Americans and Mental Health
Filipino Americans’ Experience with Mental
Health Treatment
• attaining of information about various cultural
groups, including cultural values, traditions,
histories, beliefs, and behaviors.
• insight of one’s own attitudes, biases, and beliefs
that may impact one’s work with clients; awareness
also includes relational dynamics that may occur
between both parties.
• techniques one can utilize to provide effective
treatment with culturally diverse populations.
Indigenous Filipino Values
 kapwa: fellow being
 utang ng loob: debt of reciprocity
 hiya: shame
 pakikasama: togetherness and social
 bayanihan: community spirit
Spanish Influences
• Catholicism
• Gender Roles
– Indigenous Philippines was viewed as
matriarchical or gender neutral
– Spanish gender roles emerged
– marianismo: female submissiveness
– machismo: male dominance
Bahala na: fatalism (“leave it up to God”)
Individualism: The moral stance, political
philosophy, or social outlook that stresses
independence and self-reliance.
– Conflicts with bayanihan (community spirit) which
promotes collectivism: the moral stance, political
philosophy, or social outlook that stresses human
interdependence and cooperative action.
– May lead to “Crab Mentality”: desire to outdo,
outshine, or surpass another (often of one’s same
ethnic group) at the other's expense
“The American Dream” was introduced
Filipinos may develop colonial mentality and/or
an indebtedness to the US
Assimilation: A process in which members of
one cultural group abandon their beliefs,
values, and behaviors and fully adopt those of
a new host group.
Acculturation: A process in which members
of one cultural group adopt the beliefs,
values, and behaviors of another group.
Colonial Mentality: The concept that the
colonizer’s values and beliefs are accepted by
the colonized as a belief and truth of their
own; that the mores of the colonizer are
superior to that of the colonized.
Many Filipinos and Filipino Americans may
develop colonial mentality and adhere to
both Spanish and American values.
Some studies have found depression to be
higher in Filipino Americans than in the
general American population
Some studies have found suicide ideation
higher in Filipino American youth, particularly
Filipina adolescent girls
Some studies have found that substance
abuse is more prevalent in Filipino American
communities, suggesting that substance
abuse disorders are prevalent as well.
Asian Americans utilize mental health services
less than any other racial/ethnic group, including
Whites and other people of color
Moreover, when Asian Americans do attend
mental health services, they prematurely
Filipino Americans tend to underutilize health
and mental health services more than other
Asian American groups
Filipino Americans who do seek treatment had
more severe or dysfunctional psychological
Cultural stigma is cited as a main reason why
there is an underutilization of mental health
services for Filipino Americans
• Bahala na (fatalism or “Leave it up to God”)
prohibits Filipino Americans from seeking help
• Many Filipino Americans may turn to religious
leaders or clergy for assistance with their mental
health problems
• Filipino Americans may foster a cultural
mistrust or patient suspiciousness against
mental health services in the same way other
racial/ethnic minority groups might, which may
then impact their inability to seek mental health
Filipino Americans are more likely to admit to
discussing personal and emotional problems in
counseling than other Asian American groups,
who were more likely to admit to educational
and vocational concerns
This trend may be due to the emotional
expressiveness that may be more prevalent in
Filipino American communities
This trend aligns with research with Latinos and
the need for emotionally closer
psychotherapeutic relationships
Some Filipino Americans may suffer from a
“Smiling Depression” in which they do not
exhibit external symptoms (e.g., difficulty
eating, sleeping, functioning) but repress or hide
internal symptoms (e.g., sadness,
Filipino Americans are sometimes diagnosed
with schizophrenia; however, oftentimes it may
be a normal coping method of dealing with
death (e.g., a widow may claim her deceased
husband “visits” her)
Cultural-related stressors
Acculturative stress
Family pressures/ expectations
Faulty coping mechanisms
Inability to seek mental health services
Gender influences
Additional factors
 Immigration status
 Colonial mentality
 Socioeconomic status
Kevin L. Nadal, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
City University of New York
[email protected]

Mental Health Experiences of Filipino Americans: Considerations for