W2: Understanding Mental Health and Treatment Plans

Mental illness can be understood in different ways depending on the person and treatment should be based on the individual. In “Health Psychology”, Richard Straub states that “in the end, no single approach to health care has all the answers; the search for the best solution to a medical condition often requires a willingness to look beyond one remedy or system of treatment” (583). I think that this is the best approach to helping patients improve their overall health. This week we looked at two very different articles. One understood mental illness strictly on the biomedicine perspective and the other was on the traditional side with spirits causing schizophrenia. These articles showed two extreme sides with the middle being a combination of biomedicine and traditional. How a person interprets their mental illness can impact their treatment options and overall well-being. A patient who believes that their disease is due to an angry spirit will have a difficult time accepting a Western medicine treatment plan and will have a harder time sticking to their plan. However, if you incorporated some traditional medicine techniques along with the biomedical treatment, the patient would be more likely to comply.

In “Madness in Zanzibar: An Exploration of Lived Experience”, Janis Jenkins studies three different families in Zanzibar. She observes that all of the patients with schizophrenia are on Western medicine drugs and continually go to the mental institution but they also believe in spirits having a part in their illness. By having these religious and cultural aspects, the patient’s mental health improves. However having too much of religious or cultural aspects can be detrimental to a person’s overall health along with having too much of a biomedical aspect. In “Conflicting Explanatory Models in the Care of the Chronically Ill”, Arthur Kleinman gives a transcript between a doctor and a patient where the patient is constantly being interrupted by the doctor asking about symptoms. If he had listened to the patient he would have been able to get a better diagnosis of the patient.

If the patient and doctor make a treatment plan based on the patient’s explanatory model, the patient is more likely to comply and improve their health outcome. However, depending on where the patient lives, the social outcome may be affected. Someone in Zanzibar would still be socially accepted if they thought that spirits were the cause of their mental illness, but if that same person were in the United States, they would not be as socially accepted.

Straub, Richard O. “Complementary and Alternative Medicine.” Health Psychology. 4th ed. Newy York: Worth, 2014. 550-84. Print.

2 thoughts on “W2: Understanding Mental Health and Treatment Plans

  1. HI Taylor,

    I think your post was great. And bring up the fact that if a person has a certain belief that may clash with Western practice they will be less likely to follow through with the treatment. Like the Ebola example mentioned in the lecture. Where the Western scientist came and drew blood and left, and the citizens were just left with questions and a notion that they would not be letting people draw blood again. I agree when you say what needs to happen is a sort of middle ground where the Practitioners try to understand the patients explanatory model in order to come up with something that is most effective. For example, a lot of people believe in more holistic approaches than drugs, more natural remedies, so if a physician tells a patient take these 5 pills a day for your problem they are probably not going to. Then the physician just gets frustrated, and the patient doesn’t get better.
    However, recently medical schools have required students to have some sort of understanding about social sciences which is a small step forward in the concept of treating the patient and not just the disease. But it is only a small step.

  2. Hi, Taylor! Really enjoyed reading your post.

    The quote you included by Richard Straub really had me thinking. As a pre-med student, I notice many of my classmates always trying to search for one answer. I understand that one health remedy does not cure all and it’s kind of a hard thing to wrap your mind around. In the last unit, we just finished discussing that all humans are genetically the same and all humans are part of one race. If this is so, why aren’t certain treatments the same?

    Really like the last statement in your first paragraph. I agree with this completely. I think to cure ones disease, the patient has to be understanding and have hope for the cure. If someone does believe in traditional medical techniques, I feel that they would work better for that person because the mind has a great amount of control over the rest of ones body.

    I would have to disagree on the last statement on the third paragraph. In the research conducted in Zanzibar, it associates the belief in spirits with Islamic ideology. Most of the city’s people believe in Islamic views, which results in the city’s acceptance of blaming the spirits for schizophrenia. If someone in the United States believed in Islamic ideology, I feel as if it would be accepted and looked into further.

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