Navigating Diagnoses: Understanding Mind–Body Relations, Mental Health, and Stigma in Nepal

An ethnographic study of ethnopsychology in Nepal, describing views on divisions of body, heart and mind, and how they are relevant to stigma associated with mental health and psychosocial problems.

Anthropologists and psychiatrists traditionally have used the salience of a mind–body dichotomy to distinguish Western from non-Western ethnopsychologies. However, despite claims of mind–body holism in non-Western cultures, mind–body divisions are prominent in non-Western groups. In this article, we discuss three issues: the ethnopsychology of mind–body dichotomies in Nepal, the relationship between mind–body dichotomies and the hierarchy of resort in a medical pluralistic context, and, finally, the role of mind–body dichotomies in public health interventions (biomedical and psychosocial) aimed toward decreasing the stigmatization of mental illness. We assert that, by understanding mind–body relations in non-Western settings, their implications, and ways in which to reconstitute these relations in a less stigmatizing manner, medical anthropologists and mental health workers can contribute to the reduction of stigma in global mental health care.

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