W2: Different Cultures, Different Thoughts

From the fist lecture video, I came to understand an “explanatory model” (relating to health and illness) to be a description of the hows, whats, and whys. How are these illnesses affecting a person? What is causing an illness? Why is this happening to a person? This “explanatory model” can be something different to everyone. For example, to local people, Ebola had a different explanatory model than it did to western health care workers.

The illness that is being focused on in this post is schizophrenia. This week’s materials have highlighted two different explanatory models (one was presented by Metzl and the other written by McGruder.) Metzl’s model is presented through the eyes of a psychiatric specialist and McGruder’s model is explained through the eyes of religious beings.

Metzl defined schizophrenia as a “biological illness that causes particular symptoms,” which include delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. He goes on to explain that “different types of brain anomalies” cause this disease. Metzl mentions 1% of the population in the world will be diagnosed with schizophrenia. The disease occurs in people across varying cultures around the world, so that one percent does not really lean toward a certain culture. In his video, the only point where he discusses a change in the explanatory model of Schizophrenia is the change in demographics in a certain hospital. Other than that, the changes in the explanatory model of all mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, can be seen in the changes within the various models of the DMV. In the second lecture video of this week, Dr. Gabriel mentioned differences within each of the five books. A huge difference between the DMV IIV and the DMV IV is that the DMV IV, and the higher editions, includes medical treatment of certain medical diseases.

McGruder took a different approach while studying Schizophrenia in Zanzibar, Tanzania. From the reading, I think it would be safe to conclude that culture effects the way people interpret this disease. In Zanzibar, there is a strong sense of Islamic ideology. This leads the people of Zanzibar, as stated in McGruder’s writings, to credit the spirits for the responsibility of Schizophrenia. Many families in Zanzibar still use traditional treatments such as, “botanical remedies, therapeutic uses of the Qur’an, and spirit ritual.” Another example of variation in the understanding of this disease in different cultures is seen in a study conducted in India (Banerjee). In this study, the researcher interviewed one close family member from a number of schizophrenic patients (Banerjee). It turns out that many schizophrenics in India refuse to take the medication that is prescribed to them. In result families and doctors make sure the medicine is taken even if it is involuntary (Banerjee). This seems to go against Western culture views considering that involuntary administration of medications is considered immoral (Banerjee).

A persons understanding on what a mental illness actually is can result in different treatments. If a person has understanding in the biological make up of the disease, he or she might be more willing to take medications. If a person believes mental illness to be caused by religious factors, he or she might take a more traditional approach in treating that specific patient.

Banerjee, Anwesha. “Cross-Cultural Variance of Schizophrenia in Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.” GU Journal of Health Sciences. July 2012. Accessed July 15, 2016. https://blogs.commons.georgetown.edu/journal-of-health-sciences/issues-2/vol-6-no-2-july-2012/cross-cultural-variance-of-schizophrenia-in-symptoms-diagnosis-and-treatment/.

2 thoughts on “W2: Different Cultures, Different Thoughts

  1. Hello Lauren. I liked how you described your understanding of an explanatory model. Understanding the concept through questions really allows one to understand what it really means. The example of Ebola in Africa really allowed me to better make sense of explanatory models because of the vast difference between the western health care workers and the local peoples. How could the locals NOT be shocked and scared when health care workers that spoke another language and showed up in crazy looking space suits to inspect the sick and draw blood? Not to mention, people kept dying from the disease even after they arrived. Why should they be trusted? The two groups had vastly different ways of viewing the disease and this only hindered the interactions between the two.

    In your second to last paragraph about Zanzibar, I would say it is more than safe to say that culture affects the way people understand mental illness. We, humans, are constantly being socialized to think and believe certain things that are specific to a particular culture. Our understandings of mental illnesses are entirely based on what is and isn’t valued in a culture, so if science is dominant in a society, there is going to be a vastly different approach to how an illness is viewed and treated. If religion is more favored in a society, that approach will be completely opposite than a scientific one. Cultural context is extremely important in understanding and interpreting different phenomena, such as mental illness.

  2. Hi Lauren! I found your post to be really insightful! I definitely agree that the way people interpret different illnesses depends on your culture. For example, I grew up living with a nurse so I have been taught or socialized to believe the biological side of illnesses. However, if I were to grow up in a different environment, then I might not interpret illness the same way! I really think that your environment has an impact on your thought process. With that being said, I really liked the Zanibar example that you discussed because I think it goes with this idea. As you said, religion/culture has an effect on interpretations of causes and effects for illness and your example shows that. It is very interesting to see how your culture has an effect on everything you believe. Also, I agree with you on that the treatment of a mental illness is affected by the one’s ideals and culture as well. If someone grew up thinking that the only way to cure a mental illness would be to take medicine, then I don’t think that they would be as willing to use other methods to cure their mental illness. They would want to do it the way they grew up thinking it could be cured. Culture has really impacted the way people think about mental illness, and I’m really glad you discussed that in your post!

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