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Accepted Paper:

Innovations in Mental Health Treatment in Armenia: Empowering the Individual in Society  


Seran Schug (Rowan University)
Narine Abrahamyan

Paper long abstract:

• Humanitarian and social services have become an integral part of community life in Armenia, supporting economic growth, democratization, human rights, improved healthcare including mental health for individuals with social, cognitive, emotional and psychiatric problems (WHO, 2009). While there are a few studies of the growth of the mental health system in Armenia (McCarthy, et al, 2013; WHO Report, 2009; Soghoyan and Gasparyan, 2009), there are no systematic studies of the innovations that individual mental healthcare providers have improvised and initiated in urban and rural areas to help citizens of this post-Soviet nation deal with the dramatic social, economic, and political changes that have taken place in the past 25 years. Based on my pilot ethnographic research conducted between 2018 and 2021, I found that the mental health system in Armenia to be a pluralistic synthesis of European influenced medicine and local ideologies of mental health, with significant contributions from individual psychologists to create and grow services for people in need. While local governmental as well as public and private global institutions provide funds and development programs to grow the mental health system in Armenia, it is important to acknowledge that it is through the resilience and ingenuity of individual mental health professionals that the organizations are able to grow and adapt. Even amid broad-based resistance and stigmatization of psychotherapy, marginalization of individuals with acute and chronic mental health issues, and the lack of a governing body that would support standardization and ethical oversight of therapeutic practice, these mental health providers have innovated strategies to insure that they meet high standards of ethics, fight for the human rights for women and other vulnerable communities, employ evidence-based treatment approaches for their patients suffering from trauma from difficult life situations, as well as provide post-war assistance of soldiers, children and refugees from the most recent war with Azerbaijian. Our paper will provide an ethnographic descriptive analysis of the individual therapists who form the basis of the thriving and growing assortment of evidence-based treatment, arts-based trauma informed therapies, social supports, and psychoeducational programming in mobile mental health units, medical mental health clinics, women’s and family support services, orphanages for children with developmental needs, and residential programs for children.

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Shamanism, Psychiatry and Social Trauma: On Global, National, and Local Dimensions of Mental Health