However, there’s another way to see the relationship between culture and mental health. A different group of thinkers — including, most prominently, cultural psychiatrists — sees culture as doing more than just giving different names to universal mental disorders. Culture doesn’t just shape what a mentally ill person calls his or her illness, they argue — it determines what counts as illness in the first place.
“Culture tells us what is normal, what is abnormal, what is deviant, what is not deviant, and where you seek help from,” says Bhugra.
If this is true — if it’s culture that decides what’s “crazy” and what’s reasonable behavior — then there may be no such thing as an illness that isn’t culture-bound. It’s not that a handful of disorders no longer belong in a cultural appendix; it’s that perhaps they all do.