According to DSM-V, mental illness is a syndrome that is characterized a disturbance in a person’s cognitive functions, emotional intelligence, and behavior that ultimately reflects a malfunction in biological, psychological, and developmental processes in mental functioning. There is a lot of debate that emerges when it comes to classifying an illness, disease, or sickness simply because the act of “classifying” stems from culture. Moreover, attitudes towards mental illness differentiates among creeds, kinship, cultures, nations, and individuals. This ultimately means that an individual’s cultural beliefs about mental illness is imperative for the fulfillment of sufficient approaches to mental illness. This implementation of approaches influences treatment options which leads to various social, political, and health outcomes.
As stated by Arthur Kleinman, “ explanatory models are the notions that patients, families, and practitioners have about a specific illness episode. These explanatory models are essentially informal descriptions of what an illness is about. Explanatory models are extremely important because they ultimately explain certain illness or disease through personal experience and are interpreted based off of cultural values and taboos. Take for example the text The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. The doctors and the people Hmong tribe had two different inputs on what epilepsy entails. While the doctors interpret epilepsy as of being a neurological disorder involving abnormal electrical activity to the brain, the Hmong people would probably be insulted or not fully understand how to interpret that. This is because they look as “epilepsy” as a good thing. Too the Hmong, it’s a blessing and will allow that specific person to have special healing powers; thus ordaining the person to be a shaman. Based off of the Hmong explanatory model of what epilepsy entails, this ultimately impacts the social, political, and health outcomes. Even though illness and diseases is interpreted differently based off of culture; something such as epilepsy is serious and should ultimately be looked into.
In order to have a good outcome from a social, health-related, and political standpoint, policies should be aimed at reducing social inequalities. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, barriers to health services includes: lack of availability, high cost, lack of insurance coverage,and language. From the text previously mentioned, language and cost was a really big barrier for the woman finding treatment for her daughter Lia (Anne Fadiman,8). If the politics behind the operation was more egalitarian, health needs can be would be met, citizens would receive treatment in a more timely manner, people would have access to preventive care, and policy makers could easily create health promotions programs to educate the public.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.