Cultural Anthropology and Psychiatry Working Together

Anthropologist, Edward Sapir ignited a movement in anthropology known as the ‘culture and personality’ movement. Sapir in his research pinpoints the flaws of psychiatry as a discipline. According to Sapir, psychiatry claims to treat mental illness; however, it does not locate the basis of where that mental illness originated. Further, social relationships can lead to a mental illness, thus psychiatry needs to understand such relationships in order to treat the illness effectively. For example, the death of a loved one can cause depression in an individual, or child abuse can cause anxiety. Sapir strongly believes that anthropology is a valuable resource to the field of psychiatry because it demonstrates that the definition of “normal” varies both within and across cultures, in turn creating a more effective way to treat illnesses that vary depending on culture.

 Anthropologist, Alex Golub, agrees with Sapir’s theory, claiming he was ahead of his time, as Sapir’s theory was constructed in 1938. Today, psychological practice, theory and research take into account cultural anthropology. Cultural diversity among patients is continually increasing, making it a necessity that psychiatrists are informed about culture and the diversity among it in order to treat patients ethically and effectively.