W2: Explaining Mental Illness


A person’s understanding of what an illness is has a large effect on what their treatment options will be. This understanding of the illness, for the most part comes from the person’s culture, and the beliefs and practices that are associated with it. The explanatory models play a role in determining how different people make sense of an illness. As stated in the first lecture, obviously disease can mean different things to different people. A person that has had cancer in the family versus a person that has not, or a family that has a cancer survivor versus someone that lost a member to cancer. People have different psychological views on the subject because of the positive and negative outcomes they have experienced. It also plays a role in how they think the sickness will progress, their survival rate, and how and if they will be able to recover. This also has a lot to do with the person’s socioeconomic status, their geographical location, their government, and of course their culture, “The patient’s rich view of the world and of their illness within the world, gives rise to a better understanding of their illness, including it’s meaning to them, and their expected recovery process” (Buhi, Bhugra 2010).

When we discussed mental illness, their was a big emphasis on how the perception of mental illness can effect the treatment of it. Metzle used the example of the mental health hospital in the video, and how the demographic had drastically changed to from white males and females, to mostly black males. This example primarily touches on how a certain race can be associated with a certain illness, based on certain traits or features. People in this example were being diagnosed and treated for a disease that by today’s standards didn’t actually have that disease. The doctors who diagnosed claimed to have made the diagnosis based on their symptoms, but it is felt today that they were associated with mental disease based on their race and cultural factors.

A lot of different cultures have many different views on mental illnesses as well. Some believe that it is an actual mental disease, others believe they are possessed by spirits, and some don’t even believe in any kind of treatment for mental illness. For example, Afghan people that have some time of mental illness are seen as simply mad. When this happens they are never sent away to a mental institution, but instead cared for at home by loved ones (Mehraby, 2009). So many cultures and countries have such different views and understandings of mental illness, that it is obvious why there is not just one treatment that works for everyone.


https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kamaldeep_Bhui/publication/11284889_Explanatory_models_for_mental_distress_Implications_for_clinical_practice_and_research/links/5681827108aebccc4e0be2c1.pdf ]


Click to access InterfaceFeb2009.pdf

4 thoughts on “W2: Explaining Mental Illness

  1. This week really showed me how important it is to be accepting of all types of beliefs when going into a medical profession. Explanatory models are so unique to every patient and every situation. Each culture has its own ways of explaining illness and especially mental illness. Unfortunately there is such a stigma associated with mental illness that in some areas of the world they are not socially accepted and this can worsen their disease. The past experience with a disease can also affect how a person perceives illness. If the patient has a more positive outcome about the illness and how it will progress, they will have a more positive explanatory model and vice versa. When treating patients it is important to accept every kind of way illness is interpreted than just the one you believe in. We saw with Mrs. Lawler that the doctor did not accept her explanatory style. The doctor only saw the disease with biological and chemical components and ignored the psychological and social support that Mrs. Lawler required. This led her to want to see a different doctor. I think that she had every right to want a different doctor because she should feel that the doctor could alleviate any kind of problem with her disease even the emotional ones. Going into the medical field I want to take this lesson with me and be able to help every aspect of the patient’s disease and be able to accept every explanatory style.

  2. Ive never thought about peoples views changing on outcomes they have seen. You make a very good point. If someone has only seen people be hurt and not get better from an illness then they will be more skeptical to treatments. If people have seen others survive an illness and come out to appreciate life more then they will have a positive out look on different treatments.

  3. I find it very intriguing how Afghans go home with family members instead of seeking medical attention right away. This just goes to show the different explanatory models across cultures. I understand where you’re coming from in terms of family members having cancer and thinking that one day they’ll get it. For example, my uncle’s sister and mother both died from cancer so he always has this notion that one day he’ll go down that same path. Having that mindset seems very alarming and hard to deal with. Like you said, the psychological views on the subject play a major role in life and across cultures. I thought the quote you provided was very informative and eye opening. The way one views their illness is the way one views the world. I find a lot of truth in this approach to life. What happens when our backs are against us? How does one react in times of distress and misfortune? These are the questions I ask myself at times when I put my life into perspective. I couldn’t imagine living with a life-threatening illness or a family member going through it. Luckily I haven’t experienced anything that serious in my life yet. Good read!

  4. From reading your post this has opened up my mind to understanding and accepting all opinions about mental health. Sometimes we get caught in our own views that we believe our portrayal of mental illness is the accurate view of all mental illness. Cultural, geographical, resources, and other factors play a major role in illnesses. People whom have had experience with any illness, all over the world, will approach the treatment based on resources in their environment and their cultural beliefs. For example, much of treatment of illness treated in the United Stated consists some sort of medicine. Whereas, other areas of the world may use more natural, herbal medications. In Eastern areas of the world, family members take care of their sick families without outside help from doctors, medications and caretakers. Our definition of illness varies greatly. The Islamic culture prays to Allah when someone has a mental illness and believes that person has committed a sin. Much of America culture believe mental illness is genetic and believe in medicinal treatment and psychotherapy. Personally, I have had multiple family members to pass and whom are currently living with illness. All of who are currently or have undergo some sort of medical treatment such as pills, insulin, chemotherapy dialysis, and much more. Some members have gotten sicker and passed. With this experience, I feel has given me a negative perception of medical treatment of many illnesses.

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