If you thought McDonald's and strip malls were the ugliest of America's cultural exports, think again. Western ideas about mental illness???from anorexia to post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, general anxiety and clinical depression???as well as Western treatments have been sweeping the globe with alarming speed, argues journalist Watters (Urban Tribes), and are doing far more damage than Big Macs and the Gap.
In this well-travelled, deeply reported book, Watters takes readers from Hong Kong to Zanzibar, to Tsunami ravaged Sri Lanka, to illustrate how distinctly American psychological disorders have played in far-off locales, and how Western treatments, from experimental, unproven drugs to talk therapy, have clashed with local customs, understandings and religions. While the book emphasises anthropological findings at the occasional expense of medical context, and at times skitters into a broad indictment of drug companies and Western science, Watters builds a powerful case. He argues convincingly that cultural differences belie any sort of western template for diagnosing and treating mental illness, and that the rapid spread of American culture threatens our very understanding of the human mind: 'We should worry about the loss of diversity in the world's differing conceptions of treatments for mental illness in the same way we worry about the loss of biodiversity in nature.'
Published: 28th June 2010