Our holiday break will be coming to an end next week as we resume our weekly postings. As new Social Media Editor, I want to thank our readers and the Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry team for welcoming me to my new position. I’m looking forward to the new year and new highlights in the journal and blog!
In light of the winter holidays, the blog will be taking a brief break from new updates. Posts will resume in January 2017, under the direction of the new Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry Social Media Editor, Sonya Petrakovitz. We welcome Sonya into her new position and look forward to seeing the features that she will debut on the blog in the coming months.
As another year draws to a close, we would like to thank all of you for your continued readership and engagement with the journal and our social media.
With each new issue of Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, we feature a series of blog posts that highlight the latest publications in our journal. This September’s issue features articles that address psychiatric conditions and the experiences of people with mental illness across cultures. The articles span studies in India, the United States, East Africa, Iran, and Belize. Readers may access the full issue at Springer here: http://link.springer.com/journal/11013/39/3/page/1. In this issue highlight, we will explore the emergence of public discourse about mental illness, suffering, and political struggle in Iran.
Writing Prozak Diaries in Tehran: Generational Anomie and Psychiatric Subjectivities
Behrouzan’s study began upon noticing young Iranians discussing mental illness in blogs and in public forums in the early 2000s. At the same time, the author examined unpublished public health records maintained by the state, and noticed that there was a sharp rise in the prescription rate of antidepressants in the mid to late 1990s. This pattern correlated with a shift in the understanding of suffering: during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, PTSD and anxiety disorders were considered the most pressing mental health concerns, but these illnesses became supplanted by a shared culture of loss and hopelessness amongst young Iranians in the period following the war.
Unlike the narrative of depression in other places, however, Behrouzan found that the Iranian category of depreshen held deep political meanings. The illness category reflected the condition of those unable to publicly mourn for friends and family who may have been executed as political prisoners, or to process grief about continued political unrest that seemed to have no resolution, or to understand the loss of a parent during wartime as a young child. As one Iranian blogger described, “our delights were small: cheap plastic footballs, cartoons and game cards… But our fears were big: what if a bomb targets our house?” Thus depreshen becomes an experience of suffering that reverberates throughout a generation.
However, Iranian psychiatry responds to this condition outside of its cultural context, and continues to treat depreshen as an individual patient pathology that can be understood in biological terms. By biomedicalizing depreshen in this way without understanding its connection to political struggle, Iranian psychiatry minimizes suffering and “takes away subjects’ abilities to interpret and/or draw on their pain as a political resource.” When we interpret depreshen from the perspective of patients, therefore, we gain a nuanced view of suffering that is at once culturally specific and politically powerful.
Cover of Stevenson’s book. Rights credited to UC Press.
This August 2014, Margaret Elizabeth Stevenson’s book on death, illness, and the understanding of life among the Inuit in the Canadian Arctic is set to be released by the University of California Press. The volume will explore two public health crises among the Inuit– a tuberculosis outbreak in the 1950s-60s as well as a suicide epidemic that began in the 1980s and extends into today. In these circumstances, Stevenson reports on how the Inuits cope with the death of their loved ones, realizing that what constitutes “life” is more than just the physical survival of the body.
From all of us on the CMP Journal editorial board, we’d like to extend a few opening words as we launch our new homepage.
This website will feature important information about the article submission process to the journal, as well as detail the newest installments of the journal’s current issue. It will also feature updates on the latest publications in the field of medical anthropology and allied work in the medical humanities, as well as current events that impact our understanding of human health and illness experience throughout the world today. More extensive blog posts exploring the cultural dimensions of medicine and health will be posted to this site as well, composed both by our blog administrator as well as guest writers.
It is our hope that the website will provide an active hub for scholarly work and contemporary trends in medical anthropology and the cultural study of medicine. We thank you for visiting our site and invite you to return for continued updates!