Mental Health and Medical Anthropology

I picked this intersection because I hope to one day become a psychiatrist. Ever since I was a freshman in high school, mental health has fascinated me, and I knew that I wanted to turn treating mental illness into a career. At first, I was not exactly sure how these two topics would intersect, but after going through all the topics in this course, I realized that treating any patients, whether they have physical or mental ailments, requires an understanding of each individual’s culture and previous experiences. You need to know how someone thinks and how they see the world in order to treat them properly.

If I were working for a psychiatrist, taking an anthropological approach would be very helpful in order to make sure each patient will agree to, understand, and adhere to the treatment plans we put together for them. In the video posted on Youtube by the “Tribal Jazzman Scholar,” he talks about how mistakes can be made if you don’t talk to people about their cultures. One example he talked about was how he was staying with a family who didn’t have running water. The family once made a comment about it, so he decided to do them a favor and build this nice shower with running water for them to use. When he returned a few months later, he noticed that the shower was taken apart and the pieces of wood were being used for other things such as holding the walls together better. If he had just talked to the family and asked them what they needed instead of giving them something he thought they needed, he would have helped the family more. Therefore, taking an anthropological approach allows one to consider each person as an individual, with their own culture and ideas, rather than just another patient with a certain mental illness.

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