W2: Mental Health Universially

 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.

Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997.
  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Determinants of Health.” Healthy People 2020. Accessed July 12, 2016. https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/about/foundation-health-measures/Determinants-of-Health#health services.

2 thoughts on “W2: Mental Health Universially

  1. Hi Marqui, I enjoyed reading your post and like that you initially address what a mental illness is and how the definition can vary from person to person and can be classified differently. This is like the example in lecture 2.2 which explains how talking to dead spirits could be good in one culture but a sign of a mental illness in another. Additionally, I agree that it is important to take into account the cultural views of people while also getting them help, which is seen in The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. It is obvious in the text that the family cares greatly about their cultural traditions through burying the placentas and believing Lia’s illness may be a blessing, but they also seek the help of the MCMC (Fadiman, 1997).

    I like that you make the point that policies should be made to lessen the barriers many experience in getting proper healthcare. In The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, the issue of a language barrier is addressed, which especially becomes an issue when surgery must be performed. One doctor explains that in these circumstances, “veterinary medicine” is performed (Fadiman, 1997). To me, this seems like a very dangerous practice to undertake. If everyone became more understanding of other’s explanatory models, the healthcare system would run a bit smoother.

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