Friday, January 22, 2010

The westernization of mental illness, rain, and working out

Seeing as to how this blog is entitled "A patchwork mind," I thought that would serve as fair warning that sometimes my entries would weave together various thoughts that would seem to anyone (even me), not to go together.

That being said, let's move on.

First of all, what the fuck California? How dare you present yourself as "good ol' sunny California" with your surfers and your orange trees (or is that Florida?) and your beautiful fake boobed women in bikinis. All lies! This is day five of not only rain, but real rain!

Case in point:

This picture goes along with an L.A times article entitled: "L.A coast slammed by tornado like storm"


This brings me to case number two: L.A really isn't built for rain. People go crazy, roads become ridiculously flooded, houses and cars get destroyed. Other places DEFINITELY get more rain than we do and they don't become engulfed in madness.

All in all it has made for a fun filled week, including gems like seeing a man walking his poodle who was wearing a raincoat (I kid you not).

So how to spend a Friday off when the world has gone mad?

Along with making an elaborate breakfast in which I baked pop-overs, I found a beyond fascinating article in the New York Times (what I actually read when not looking for rain pictures in the L.A times) entitled: "The Americanization of Mental Illness". It points out what has always been believed to be true: mental illness is shaped by social constructs and therefore looks differently in different parts of the world. Eating disorders for example present very differently in America versus India, that is, until now. Watters takes it one step further and points out something I always wondered about.

There is now good evidence to suggest that in the process of teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we’ve been exporting our Western “symptom repertoire” as well. That is, we’ve been changing not only the treatments but also the expression of mental illness in other cultures.

He refers of course to our exportation of the DSM (clinical psychology's bible and means of identifying, classifying and treating mental illness) as well as research studies.

The article points out too many "aha" moments to write about in this hodgepodge post but I did have to point you to this gem, perhaps encompassing Watter's main point:

In the end, what cross-cultural psychiatrists and anthropologists have to tell us is that all mental illnesses, including depression, P.T.S.D. and even schizophrenia, can be every bit as influenced by cultural beliefs and expectations today as hysterical-leg paralysis or the vapors or zar or any other mental illness ever experienced in the history of human madness.

The article is a must read from a sociological, psychological, and historical perspective. And well, it's just damn interesting, so go read it!

Other than spending a day reading and finally getting around to studying for that GRE, I'm also very excited by new pilates and ballet classes! They're kicking my butt but they certainly help with the stress that inevitably arises from working in a locked psychiatric facility. :)

How are you all spending your fridays?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rainy Day Plans

Back from hiatus. It's a rainy Monday and the forecast reads it'll rain for the rest of the week (yes, I still live in L.A). This is such an uncommon occurrence that when it happens people don't know what to do with themselves. But it's also MLK day which means no work and no research :) Instead I will spend my rainy Monday lazily getting up and having lunch in Downtown Disney with a friend. Today, if only for twenty four hours, no stress looms over. :)

Happy Monday! (and thank you, so so much, Martin Luther King Jr.)