The Role of Culture/Ethnicity in Communicating with Cancer Patients About Mental Health Distress and Suicidality

Leeat Granek*, Ora Nakash, Samuel Ariad, Shahar Shapira, Merav A. Ben-David

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To explore the role of culture in communicating with cancer patients about mental health distress and suicidality. The Grounded Theory method of data collection and analysis was used. Healthcare professionals (HCPs) reported that language competency was a facilitator while being unable to speak the language or understand the nuances of their patient’s communication could be a barrier. HCPs noted that being culturally matched with their patients helped them communicate effectively. HCPs also spoke about religious taboos on suicide as being a barrier to having conversations, either because patients did not feel comfortable discussing these issues, or because they perceived that this was not a topic they could bring up. Some HCPs reported that the culture/ethnicity of their patients had no effect on their ability to communicate effectively with them about mental health distress or suicidality. Advancing effective cross-cultural communication is a challenge faced by HCPs. Raising awareness about communication styles is an important step in addressing communication gaps about mental health and suicide with cancer patients. Training should facilitate skill development to engage in a culturally humble approach to cross-cultural communication including diversity training which encourages asking and actively listening to patients’ needs and preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-229
Number of pages16
JournalCulture, Medicine and Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020


FundersFunder number
American Foundation for Suicide PreventionPilot Grant


    • Culture
    • Doctor–patient communication
    • Ethnicity
    • Oncology
    • Suicide


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