W2: Normalcy of Mental Illnesses

Comparing the two very different explanatory models concerning mental illness, was very interesting to me. I would consider myself more educated than the average person when it comes to mental illnesses and their stigmas. I was both shocked and impressed with the explanatory model towards mental illnesses in Zanzibar. The way the first two families were so patient and accepting of their ill family members is something I think is very important when it comes to being a caregiver for someone with a mental illness. I also loved how they did not pry too much into their lives or blame them too much for what was happening to them. I think it comes from their outlook on the origin of these mental illnesses. The way they believe they are a test and come from Allah helps people understand that this can happen to anyone and that they did not ask for this (McGruder, 2015). The treatment they use is a mix of culture and biological. This is very important because their beliefs about mental illness revolves around their culture, so it is a more beneficial treatment plan then compared to a culture that only believes in the biological factors of mental illnesses.

The explanatory model of mental illness in the U.S. has evolved a lot recently, which is shown in the DSM volumes. The beginning DSM’s explained mental illnesses as “reactions” to one’s subconscious and has evolved into acknowledging chemical imbalances (Gabriel, 2016). Most treatments are now prescriptions to alter one’s chemical imbalances in hopes of helping the mental illness. This is different from the explanatory model from Zanzibar, where they look for an explanation from their culture. I think in the U.S. the stigma of mental illnesses is a bad one and that most people do not know how to act around someone with a mental illness due to our lack of understanding of the origin of these illnesses. I do not think either explanatory model explored is perfect. I also do not know if there is a perfect explanatory model for mental illnesses. Each person and their mental illness is unique and I do not believe there will be one single treatment plan. I agree with the first lecture when talking about how doctors need to know the right questions to ask, listen to their patients, and personalize each patient’s narrative (Gabriel, 2016).

When researching mental illness stigma’s, I found data from the Western Australian Mental Health Commission claiming that, “3 out of 4 people with mental illness report having experienced stigma” (What is Stigma? 2010). They then go on to define stigma as, “a mark of disgrace that sets apart a person” (What is Stigma? 2010). This is where I believe some explanatory models of mental illnesses could learn from those like in Zanzibar. Culture and biological reasoning is necessary for mental illness explanatory models. The same commission went on to say that, “1 in 5 people said that if they had depression, they would not tell anyone” (What is Stigma? 2010). No one should be ashamed of their mental illness, you wouldn’t break your arm and hide it. I believe in order to strengthen the treatment plans concerning mental illnesses, we must work on removing the negative stigma towards those with mental illnesses and start educating people on the normalcy of mental illnesses.


“What Is Stigma?” What Is Stigma? 2010. Accessed July 15, 2016. http://www.mentalhealth.wa.gov.au/mental_illness_and_health/mh_stigma.aspx.

One thought on “W2: Normalcy of Mental Illnesses

  1. Hi Emma
    I liked your post, I liked how you compared the explanatory models between American Culture and the Zanzibar. The last few minutes of our lecture on DSM touched on the fact that it is actually a very American based piece. And I think compared to other cultures Americas views on health and illness is very much reliant on science based practice/diagnosis. You brought up how in Zanzibar the people believed that it was a test from Allah. And in such how they perceive the illness is different than it is in America. Therefore, I would agree with you when you say the current DSM explaining solely in the exploratory or science way is not absolutely correct. Understanding culture is essential in diagnosis and treatment. Which is why I would say the medical practice as a whole needs a little work in that we should not just treat an illness but the person. It is important to spend more than a few seconds with a person and rely solely on a chart. And like you said each person, each illness is unique. I think it will take a while but medicine is slowly trying to go towards individualized healthcare. Which would be a tremendous step forward. It will just take a very long time to get there.

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