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Postgraduate course

Culture and Psychopathology; Mental Health in a Cross-Cultural Perspective

  • ECTS credits3
  • Teaching semesterSpring
  • Course codePSYK302G
  • Number of semesters1
  • LanguageEnglish
  • Resources

Main content

Teaching semester


Objectives and Content

Like all systems of healing, biomedicine is a cultural product arising from Western industrialized countries. Yet practice of medicine to a large extent has shown very little cognizance to cultural and social factors. Biomedical conception of health and its practice are often transported from one part of the world to the other in packages of absolute truths. Notwithstanding great results, they have sometimes proven to be ineffective and even detrimental to the receiving group of people. Central to this problem is failure on the part of biomedicine to take into account culture's influence on people's attitudes, belief systems, conception of illness and disease, disease aetiology, and health-care seeking behavior. In addition, while certain health problems (e.g. culture-bound syndromes) are difficult to understand using imported biomedical models from the West, they are readily understood within the cultural societies where they are manifested. The crux of this course is to examine mental illness, their manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment in different cultural societies. The following areas of topics will be addressed during the 5-days of lectures.

  • Culture and mental illness: Concepts, issues, models and theories
  • Classification/grouping of mental disorders in diagnostic manuals: culture and methodolog
  • Review of some common mental illness (anxiety, mood, somatoform disorders and schizophrenia from a cultural perspective
  • Culture bound syndromes, cultural validations and their possible links with mental illness in the classification manuals
  • Acculturation, multiculturalism and mental health
  • Cross-cultural and multicultural psychotherapy: Help-seeking behavior, treatment and prognosis

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the module the student should be able to:

1. Describe and identify the role of cultural variables in the aetiology of mental disorder.

2. Explain how cultural variables interact with biological, psychological and environmental variables to influence psychopathology.

3. Appraise cultural variations in standards of normality and abnormality.

4. Critically evaluate cultural variations in the classification and diagnosis of psychopathology.

5. Describe and determine the cultural variations in the expression, course and outcome of psychopathology, and

6. Assess how cultural change affects adaptation outcome

Required Previous Knowledge

Due to the limited number of spaces available and special entry requirements, admission to this course is limited.

Teaching Methods and Extent of Organized Teaching

The course will involve formal lectures, interactive group discussions. Otherwise, the students will do a lot of reading and self-reflection on mental disorders from their own society, as well as discuss anThe course will involve formal lectures, interactive group discussions. Otherwise, the students will do a lot of reading and self-reflection on mental disorders from their own society, as well as discuss and interview people from other cultures how mental disorders are defined, identified and treated in their particular society.

At the end of each day's lecture, students will be given a home work. Each home work will involve about 3 -5 hours of work (reading) and the submission of a written essay of about 500 words. Ideally, the essay should be submitted by noon of the following day. All the essays should have been submitted by the last day of lectures. During the 2nd week of the course, students will be expected to do self-study. This self-study will result in a self defined reading objective where the student has to write an annotated summary of 5 articles. This would be 2500 words.

Number of weeks: 2 weeks (1 week face-to-face contact): 1 week self study.

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

Submit at least 2 of the short essays.

Forms of Assessment

Continuous assessments involving 3 short essays (up to 500 words) and a long (up to 2500 words) essay to be written at home.

In all, students have to submit 4 different assignments: (i) A report (i.e., an annotated summary) of self-defined reading. This will be about 2500 words) (ii) 3 short essays (ca 500 words in length), based on the daily home work during the first week of the course. The 3 short essays will form 45 % of the final grade (15% for each essay). The 4th assignment after the self-study period (i.e., the annotated summary) will respectively account for 55% of the final grade. A student who does not submit at least 2 of the 3 short essays will automatically fail. Similarly, failure to submit the self-study report (i.e., the annotated summary and the essay) will automatically fail.

Grading Scale

The grading scale used is A to F. Grade A is the highest passing grade in the grading scale, grade F is a fail.


Department of Psychosocial Science.