Author(s): Steven J. Gold, PhD

Date Authored: September 6, 1992

EthnoMed has been granted permission from the Western Journal of Medicine to provide the following article from their journal on our website. This material may be protected by Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S. Code).

We are grateful to the Western Journal of Medicine for their cooperation and willingness to make this information available to the EthnoMed audience.


Despite their impressive progress in adapting to American life, many Vietnamese still suffer from wartime experiences, culture shock, the loss of loved ones, and economic hardship. Although this trauma creates substantial mental health needs, culture, experience, and the complexity of the American resettlement system often block obtaining assistance. Vietnamese mental health needs are best understood in terms of the family unit, which is extended, collectivistic and patriarchal. Many refugees suffer from broken family status. They also experience role reversals wherein the increased social and economic power of women and children (versus men and adults) disrupts the traditional family ethos. Finally, cultural conflicts often make communication between practitioners and clients difficult and obscure central issues in mental health treatment. Rather than treating symptoms alone, mental health workers should acknowledge the cultural, familial, and historical context of Vietnamese refugees.

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