Last week’s ABC Radio National All in the Mind had a fantastic interview with journalist Ethan Watters whose book ‘Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche’ has been making waves with its criticism of the cultural dominance of American psychiatry.
I’ve promised a long overdue review of the book to The Psychologist so I won’t go into too many details here, except to say that although the book is not without its flaws, it remains an important take on how the DSM diagnostic manual is becoming a lens through which both professionals, and more importantly, regular folks, are interpreting their own distress.
This is not just a case of people using foreign terms to label mental disorder. The effect is much more profound. Our knowledge of illness, both physical and mental, affects how we experience distress.
Watters’ book investigates how ideas taken from Western society about the nature of mental illnesses are affecting other cultures, in terms of disease mongering by drug companies, inappropriate treatments being foisted on people in times of distress and local concerns being ignored because they “don’t fit the picture”.
These criticisms are not new, but Watters drags them from the depths of the anthropological research and vividly illustrates them by weaving them into personal and social stories from across the world.
The All in the Mind interview summarises and explores some of the most important and well-done pieces in the book and is definitely worth a listen.
Link to All in the Mind interview with Ethan Watters.