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Anthropology and psychiatry as disciplines appear to have a considerable amount of common ground. Both are interested in human beings, the societies within which they live and their behaviours. A key starting difference between the two is anthropology's interest in relativism, whereas psychiatry has been interested in universalism. Also, both anthropology and psychiatry have a long history of common interest in phenomenology and the qualitative dimensions of human experience, as well as a broader comparative and epidemiological approach.
Jenkins illustrates the common ground by emphasizing that both disciplines contribute to the philosophical questions of meaning and experience raised by cultural diversity in mental illness and healing. Both disciplines also contribute to the practical problems of identifying and treating distress of patients from diverse ethnic and religious groups. Psychiatry focuses on individual biography and pathology, thereby giving it a unique relevance and transformation. Patient narratives thus become of great interest to clinicians and anthropologists. Development of specializations such as medical or clinical anthropology puts medicine in general and psychiatry in particular under a magnifying glass. Using Jungian psychology as an exemplar could lead to a clearer identification of convergence between the two disciplines. The nexus between anthropology of emotion and the study of psychopathology identified in her own work by Jenkins looks at normality and abnormality, feeling and emotion, variability of course and outcome, among others. She ends the chapter on an optimistic note, highlighting the fact that the convergence between these two disciplines remains a very fertile ground for generating ideas and issues with the potential to stimulate both disciplines.
The burdens experienced by relatives of mentally ill persons are substantial.
To study the relationship between family burden and sociocultural context.
A comparative study of Euro-Americans and Latinos ascertained whether dimensions of family response are (a) non-specific to diagnostic groups; and/or (b) variable across cultural settings.
Regardless of diagnosis or ethnicity, patient misery was found most burdensome and distressing. However, considerable difference in shades of meaning and nuance across groups appears in relation to what is classed similarly as ‘misery’. Only gender was significantly associated with social performance (males reported to have greater deficits). A complex cultural – ecological effect was observed among the Latino–schizophrenia group.
Findings suggest similarities and differences in levels of family burden in relation to socio-cultural factors across cultural and diagnostic groups. The specificity of results by objective and subjective measures, types of burden, gender, ethnicity, diagnosis, and living situation confirm the importance of context and heterogeneity in understanding family burden and distress.
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