Beyond critique: rethinking roles for the anthropology of mental health.

TitleBeyond critique: rethinking roles for the anthropology of mental health.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsWhitley R
JournalCult Med Psychiatry
Date Published2014 Sep
KeywordsAnthropology, Medical, Humans, Mental Health, Psychiatry

The current supremacy of the 'bio-bio-bio' model within the discipline of psychiatry has progressively marginalized social science approaches to mental health. This situation begs the question, what role is there for the anthropology of mental health? In this essay, I contend that there are three essential roles for the anthropology of mental health in an era of biological psychiatry. These roles are to (i) provide a meaningful critique of practices, beliefs, and movements within current psychiatry; (ii) illuminate the socio-cultural, clinical, and familial context of suffering and healing regarding emotional distress/mental illness; and (iii) act as a catalyst for positive change regarding healing, services and provisions for people with emotional distress/mental illness. My argument is unified by my contention that a credible anthropology of mental health intending to make a societal contribution should offer no opposition without proposition. In other words, any critique must be counter-balanced by the detailing of solutions and proposals for change. This will ensure that the anthropology of mental health continues to contribute critical knowledge to the understanding of mental suffering, distress, and healing. Such social and cultural approaches are becoming especially important given the widespread disenchantment with an increasingly dominant biological psychiatry.

Alternate JournalCult Med Psychiatry
PubMed ID24990458