Accepted paper:

Culture and inclusion in mental health policy and practice in the UK and Sri Lanka

Authors:

Tom Widger (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper considers the different concepts of culture and inclusion that are increasingly shaping mental health policy and practice in the UK and Sri Lanka.

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers the different concepts of culture and inclusion that are increasingly shaping mental health policy and practice in the UK and Sri Lanka. Drawing from ethnographic research conducted in mental health policy and practice settings in both countries, the paper argues that 'culture' is similarly recognised in both contexts as being of fundamental importance for the provision of inclusive mental health services, although in very different ways. In the UK the legacy of social movements around race, gender, and disability and the legislation that sprang from them - in particular the Public Sector Equality Duties and 2010 Equality Act - has led to a drive to 'multiculturalise' mental health services. A crucial part of this is considered to be responding to the 'cultural differences and needs' of patients with 'diverse profiles' for the development of effective mental health interventions. In Sri Lanka, by contrast, 'cultural difference' is cited by many international and local NGOs, policy makers, and mental health practitioners as being the reason for the slow take-up of mental health services in the country. Because of 'culture,' it is often argued, Sri Lankan's don't recognise they are suffering from mental health problems and so go untreated. The paper concludes by arguing that these local variations in culture and inclusion concepts can be understood as forming part of broader processes of globalisation and localisation within which mental health systems in the UK are 'demedicalising' while in Sri Lanka they are 'medicalising.'

panel LD36
Ethnographic perspectives on 'global mental health'