Author:Murphy Halliburton (Queens College, CUNY)
Paper short abstract:
Medical anthropology has not yet come to terms with findings by the WHO of a better recovery rate for serious mental illnesses in "developing" countries. This paper explains how a medically pluralistic environment enables recovery from major psychopathology.
Paper long abstract:
Psychiatry and anthropology have not yet come to terms with findings by the WHO of a better recovery rate for serious mental illnesses in "developing" countries. Arguing that anthropology needs to continue to explore the implications of these findings for psychiatric care, this paper urges that biomedical psychiatry re-discover the meaning of care and re-consider what may be an overemphasis on curing in psychiatric practice. Fieldwork conducted in Kerala, India on biomedical, ayurvedic and religious treatments for psychopathology, suggest that an overemphasis on cure has led biomedical psychiatry to adopt viscerally abrasive methods of treatment (including the use of strong psychotropic drugs and ECT). Ayurvedic psychiatric treatment involves more aesthetically agreeable procedures which appeal to patients and call attention to the importance of caring or attending to the quality of the process of undergoing therapy. This paper considers whether these differences may be a factor in the differential outcome discovered by the WHO.
Crisis and resolution: imagination and the transformation of psychiatric care