Posts Tagged ‘americanization of mental illness’

About Mental Illness: Biological Process in Sociocultural Context

January 12, 2010

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Ethan Watters wrote in the NY Times that the importation to other cultures of American models of mental illness actually creates new symptom patterns as people replicate what they are taught about themselves.  This intervention of American mental health models sometimes obliterates local forms of understanding and healing.  He writes, “When we undermine local conceptions of the self and modes of healing, we may be speeding along the disorienting changes that are at the very heart of much of the world’s mental distress.” American mental health models may also be disorienting this country.

There is, however, another view of mental illness that derives from relational psychologists and psychoanalysts. This model can cross cultural boundaries without disrupting indigenous meanings.  It suggests that the  interaction between biological processes and sociocultural contexts produces personality, and that mental illness results when there is a poor fit between them.  Let me explain.

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