Cultural Diversity, Mental Health and Psychiatry: The Struggle against Racism

By Suman Fernando | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

Psychiatry and mental health from a transcultural perspective

In all societies religious healing and methods of liberating the individual from troubles of the mind tend to exist side by side with naturalistic treatment of ailments with medicines, surgery and physical manipulations, but their sphere of influence tends to shrink in the face of secularisation and scientific medicine (Frank 1963). As western secular constructions of the mind separated out from previously 'religious' understandings of human thinking, feeling and behaviour, and the western medical approach to problems associated with the human condition developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, psychiatry and western psychology arose as specialisms in the western cultural tradition. I refer to western psychology because, unlike the case with psychiatry, one can recognise forms of psychology, the study of the mind, in non-western cultural settings too. Looked at in simple terms, the tradition of recognising illnesses or disorders of the mind and providing 'therapy' for them, in other words psychiatry as it is known today, is not evident in medical traditions of Asia, Africa or pre-Columbian America. Similarly, what is referred to as 'psychotherapy' and 'counselling', i.e. therapies that employ talking as the main or only tool, appear to be specific to a European cultural tradition. But the situation is not as simple as that.

If one looks at the general issue of mental health transculturally and in some depth, comparing and contrasting traditions is complicated and difficult. Complicated because traditions themselves are not clear and differences and similarities between them are intertwined. Difficult because if, for example, we start from a western viewpoint using concepts, categories and the like that we are familiar with and try to find them in settings where these concepts and categories may have little meaning, there are bound

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Cultural Diversity, Mental Health and Psychiatry: The Struggle against Racism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figure, Tables and Boxes x
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Background 9
  • Chapter 1 - Racism and Cultural Diversity 11
  • Chapter 2 - Responding to Racism, Addressing Culture 46
  • Part II - Underlying Themes 87
  • Chapter 3 - Psychiatry and Mental Health from a Transcultural Perspective 89
  • Chapter 4 - Psychiatric Stigma and Racism 146
  • Part III - Changing Practice 169
  • Chapter 5 - Moving Forward 171
  • Chapter 6 - Future Prospects 208
  • References 218
  • Index 243
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