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Acculturation and The Psyche

Let’s begin with a Case Study:

Having relocated to another country in search of greener pastures, the first few weeks of Mr. Alfred in his new environment were characterized by loneliness coupled with a series of frustrations. These frustrations were so overwhelming that the joy and sense of relief that he so much anticipated seemed to be far away. He could neither communicate his needs to his neighbors nor interact with others due to the language barrier. Also, the available options for food were strange to him. It took him almost two months to blend with the culture of his host country. Mr. Alfred’s problem was simply an acculturation-related challenge. Acculturation is the cultural adjustment of an individual, group, or people by adapting to or adopting traits from another culture. This could take place at any stage or time of life.


In other words, acculturation is the process in which immigrants and their families learn and assimilate the values, beliefs, habitual behaviors, customs, and languages of their new location as they live there. This process also includes behaviors that affect their health such as dietary habits and activity levels.


It is important to have a comprehensive understanding of how ethnocultural groups relate, interact, and integrate into each other in the attempts to live together in the case of a culturally plural society. This is because the process of acculturation can impact one’s social and psychological well-being. Psyche, on the other hand, means the human soul, mind, or spirit. One should be well-informed about these concepts. Consequently, the focus of this article is acculturation and mental health.



Acculturation Conceptualised

Acculturation is associated with distress, loneliness, and stress symptoms. A lot of individuals experience symptoms of mental illness on arrival to their host country as a result of traumatic pre-emigration and migration experiences. The population and the societal nature of the new environment can influence their mental health outcomes negatively. It can also aggravate existing mental health indications.


Mental Health Conceptualised

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is defined as a “state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to his or her community” (WHO,2022). In other words, your mental health is the state of mental well-being that enables you to cope with the stress of life, realize your abilities, learn and work effectively, and contribute to your community. It is a component of health and well-being that cannot be overlooked or underrated. It plays a major role in our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships and mold the world we live in. 


Mental health is necessary for personal, community, and socio-economic development. With that being said, and with a basic understanding of the concept of acculturation, it is, therefore, necessary to understand how acculturation influences your mental health. Acculturation cannot be considered without mentioning mental health because acculturation is a psychological process.



Mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders. It is complex, with the experience of one individual differing from another with varying degrees of difficulty and distress. It also results in potentially different social and clinical outcomes. Mental disorders, psychosocial disabilities as well as other mental states associated with risk related to the deliberate non-suicidal injuring of one’s own body, notable distress, or disability in functioning are all mental health conditions. People with mental health conditions are more liable to experience lower levels of mental health, but this is not always the case.


The different perceptions about the process of acculturation affect how it is quantified and the effect it has on mental health. Immigrants changing from their culture by the influence of another culture, especially a more dominant culture exhibit positive help-seeking attitudes and human conduct and have heightened risk of substance use and poor mental health implications. Also, the negative implication of the acculturation process and mental health can be traced to parental and adolescent relationships and pre-and post-natal experiences.


The feeling of uncertainty about becoming an effective part of a new society and adopting some parts of a new culture shows that unwilling migrants may share similar experiences with acculturating immigrants.


Acculturation is not Enculturation

Worthy of note is the fact that acculturation and enculturation are two different notions that explain how an individual adapts to new cultures. Even though they are similar, they differ significantly in meaning and application. While acculturation is regarded as the process of adopting the practices and values of a (dominant) culture without entirely losing the original culture, enculturation on the other hand, is regarded as the process of learning and internalizing the cultural norms, beliefs, and values from the society from birth.


A significant difference between acculturation and enculturation is the direction of the cultural influence. With acculturation, the influence is from the dominant culture to the minority culture, whereas, the influence is from the individual's own culture in enculturation. Acculturation is usually associated with migration, where people move to a new country and adopt new practices and customs, while enculturation takes place when an individual is born and raised in a particular culture.



Other differences between acculturation and enculturation include the quantity of change that takes place. In acculturation, individuals may adopt some aspects of the dominant culture, but they might yet retain some parts of their heritage culture. The case is different with enculturation as the implications are very profound causing significant changes in a person's values, beliefs, and attitudes. Enculturation forms the totality of an individual's view and perception of the universe, while on the other hand acculturation just influences some aspects of an individual's behavior and ways of doing things.


Conclusively, the association between acculturation and the mental health of migrants is complex but can however be taken care of by psychological adjustment. Solutions like the appreciation and promotion of heritage language and effective social interaction are required to aid psychological adjustment and also improve migrants’ mental health.


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Tags: #mentalhealth #culture #relocation #japa #psyche #acculturation #resettlement


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