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Going Mad The American Way

New podcast and forum at PRI World Science:

Listen to a story by reporter Laura Starecheski, followed by our interview with Ethan Watters.

Our guest in the Science Forum is journalist Ethan Watters.

His latest book is Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche.

“America is homogenizing the way the world goes mad,” Watters writes. He contends that Americans are exporting their view of mental illness to the rest of the world.

Watters says culture influences not only how people deal with mental disorders but how mental disorders manifest themselves. Yet those cultural differences are disappearing as Western notions of mental health become popular worldwide.

Some examples Watters cites in his book:

• Anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder, is now common in countries with no history of the disease.

• Modern biomedical notions of schizophrenia are replacing the idea of spirit possession in places like Zanzibar.

• By selling pills for depression, pharmaceutical companies have caused a rise in the diagnosis of depression in Japan.

Bring your thoughts and questions about culture and mental illness to Watters. The discussion is just to the right.

* Is America’s view of mental health reflective of the nation’s individualistic culture?
* Have you or a family member been diagnosed with mental illness? Has your ethnic or religious background influenced your response?
* Would Americans benefit from importing ideas of mental health from other countries?

Related reading: The Americanization of Mental Illness.