RM-ly encouragement to branch out towards (appropriate methodology considerations in/for) Global Mental Health

As led by Ross White (Glasgow), and together with colleagues from Uganda (Rosco Kasujja and Ponsiano Okalo), our following conference paper has been accepted. In it, we use our experiences (for the AHRC project, Case Study 1) in Lira in northern Uganda (see the researching-multilingually-at-borders.com website for more on this case study) as a stimulus to think more about appropriate methodology and linguistic issues at the interface of anthropology and (global) mental health.

MAGic2015: “Anthropology and Global Health: interrogating theory, policy and practice”

As a contribution to a Panel entitled “Mental health and anthropology: local challenges to ‘global mental health'”

we are making a paper contribution entitled: “Global Mental Health: The importance of contextual sensitivity and appropriate methodologies”

Paper Short Abstract:
Drawing on research seeking to develop culturally appropriate psychosocial interventions for Lango-speaking people in Uganda, this paper problematizes the dichotomy drawn between ‘Global’ and ‘Local’ perspectives. Lango descriptions of distress highlight the complex reality that exists on the ground.

Paper Long Abstract:
The Universalist approach to addressing mental health difficulties across the globe has been critiqued for discounting the potential impact that the diverse beliefs and practices of people living in different cultural contexts have on people’s experience of distress. Such critiques have suggested that scaling-up ‘evidence-based’ biomedical interventions may serve to undermine or extinguish local forms of support. Conversely, Conservationist arguments that adopt a dioramic and essentialised approach to ‘culture’ can be critiqued on the basis that syncretization occurs between and within cultures; the local is situated within the global and the global permeates the local. Whilst acknowledging the stark inequities in knowledge exchange that are evident between high-, middle- and low-income countries, this paper questions the extent to which these critiques capture the heterogeneous nature of Global Mental Health (GMH) initiatives. The paper draws on research conducted in Norther n Uganda as part of an interdisciplinary project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council entitled: ‘Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law and the State’. The paper explores Lango-language descriptions of problems experienced by people living in the Lira district of Uganda, and the local advice that is given to address these problems. The paper argues that GMH as an endeavour should not be constrained by either the Universalist or Conservationist approaches, but should instead promote the need for globally-minded practitioners who adopt context-sensitive perspectives in pursuit of appropriate methodologies for GMH. The importance of conducting interdisciplinary research into the languaging of distress is also highlighted.

Ross White, Richard Fay, Rosco Kasujja and Ponsiano Okalo

One comment

  • Susan Dawson

    Really interesting to see the sort of work that is emerging from this interdisciplinary collaboration, Richard. Also fascinating to see the idea of appropriate and context-sensitive methodology for practitioners being applied in other disciplines.