Objective: To provide some general recommendations for psychiatric assessment of depression among Chinese patients within a predominately Western society.
Method: A literature review is provided with interpretive comments.
Results: The prevalence of depression reported in community studies undertaken in Chinese communities is very low. To what extent Chinese people experience and seek help for depression, and how they report depressive symptoms have long been topics of some importance. The impact of acculturation as well as concepts and interpretations of illness in traditional Chinese medicine are discussed. Awareness of sensitive issues and practices within the Chinese culture will facilitate communication between medical professionals and patients, resulting in more accurate identification and diagnosis of depressive disorders.
Conclusion: Direct but culturally sensitive and empathic questioning of psychological symptoms is needed to unveil patients' explanatory models, as most Chinese initially nominate only somatic symptoms to health practitioners. Successfully treated patients can promote earlier and wider utilization of mental health services to other Chinese people.