the society for the study of psychiatry and culture


I had a great time at the annual Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture meeting at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at University of San Diego . The best part of being in this organization its getting together with like minded folks (including anthropologists, social workers, psychologists, and physicians) to have open dialogue about psychiatry, the meaning of psychiatry, how we define what's "normal" and how these definitions vary from culture to culture. I love that in this group there is a curiosity for really looking at ourselves and our work from so many angles, and not just the standard medical model. 


Here's a picture of my talk on my work in Bangalore in collaboration with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS). For this project, I partnered with my colleagues from NIMHANS - Dr. Srikala Bharath MD and Dr. N Manjunatha MD, as well as Dr. Allen Dyer MD PhD at GWU. Our field work was done at Sakalawara Community Mental Health Center, which serves as a psychiatric clinic for villages surrounding Bengaluru.  Using an ethnographic approach, we interviewed women from the villages who were being treated for depression and anxiety. Our interviews focused on understanding what it felt like to be living with depression as a woman in Bangalore, and how each woman made sense of her condition, with a goal of gaining a more nuanced understanding of how culture and mental health affect each other. Some of the most compelling themes of these rich interviews came out around motherhood, and how tapping into their core identity as mothers was a socially acceptable means for activating agency and assertive thinking for these women. In my talk, I discussed how assertive coping in this manner can fit into the Hindu belief structure of karma.