Medical Anthropologist Dr. Beatriz Reyes-Foster returns, this time to discuss her experiences researching a psychiatric hospital in Mexico, looking at how culture shapes the diagnoses, care, and outcomes of mental illness.
How is mental illness cultural? Medical Anthropologists have long demonstrated how a phenomenon categorized as a disorder, like schizophrenia, is understood and experienced very differently from culture to culture. How the illness is viewed in society, what support structures are available, and which ideologies dominate, such as individuality or the importance of family, all play roles in how a person with illness is treated. When these circumstances are situated in a location where the history of colonialism continues to dominate the lives and identities of indigenous patients, what is often narrowly defined as mental health becomes an issue of national economic, race, and identity systems.
Dr. Reyes-Foster documents how staff at a mental hospital in the Yucatan in Mexico struggle to be human in inhumane conditions, which are set from on high at a governmental level, the results of contemporary politics and the long-standing impacts of colonialism.