Brandon Kohrt, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, global health, and cultural anthropology, saw a gap in educational resources that extend the study of mental illness beyond the individual level to consider social and cultural contexts around the world. To address this need, he and Emily Mendenhall, a global health professor at Georgetown University, published a book, Global Mental Health: Anthropological Perspectives, which is available now through Left Coast Press, Inc.
“Current global mental health resources focus on concepts, methods, epidemiology and research trials,” Kohrt said. “What was missing was the first-hand accounts of patients and health care workers around the world, including people without clinical psychology or psychiatry training who deliver mental health care.” The personal narratives, he says, help readers understand the reality of living with and treating mental illness in Bolivia, Haiti and Liberia.
Kohrt and Mendenhall Are Long-Time Collaborators
Kohrt and Mendenhall, both medical anthropologists, have collaborated on writing projects for more than a decade, including Mendenhall’s series on Global Health Narratives for middle school and high school students. Mendenhall approached Kohrt to co-edit a global mental health book that would center on personal narratives for the series “Anthropology and Global Public Health.”
Personal Narratives Shed Light on Wide Range of Health Systems
The book draws on the experience of many well-known experts and uses engaging narratives that illustrate the complexities of diverse mental health conditions and their treatment across the world. With a foreword by Vikram Patel, psychiatrist and international mental health professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the book explores:
- Traditional versus biomedical beliefs about mental illness
- The role of culture in mental illness
- Intersections between religion and mental health
- Connections between mind and body
- Access to health care
- Innovations in task-sharing with non-specialist and peer-delivered mental health care
Patel notes in the foreword, “This book is truly global in its focus on both high- and low-income countries’ mental health services, thus addressing issues that affect all health systems. The contributions range from psychiatric residents in Boston and peer providers in Chicago to nurses in Liberia and community health workers in Haiti.”
Book Will Help Students Explore the Realities on the Ground
Global Mental Health is primarily intended for use in courses on global mental health, psychology, public health, anthropology and other health-related areas of study.
Kohrt noted, “We think this book will stimulate students to think critically about two central issues in global health. First, who are the people behind the numbers? And second, how do global health strategies and guidelines get transformed into action and services?”
Kohrt thinks the stories of lay health workers will open students’ eyes to the benefits, challenges and unintended consequences of strategies advocated by global health policy makers. He hopes students will use the book as a launching point to further explore qualitative and ethnographic methods in global health and to study fields such as medical anthropology and global health humanities.”
Left Coast Press President Has High Hopes for the Book
Mitch Allen, president and publisher of Left Coast Press, is confident that the book will have a positive impact on the field of mental health. He commented, “The real strength of this book is Brandon’s and Emily’s ability to leverage their own expertise in gathering together the world’s leading scholars on anthropological mental health issues.”
To learn more about or purchase the book, visit Left Coast Press. A copy of the book is also available for perusal in the DGHI communications office.