Culture as Cure

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Essay Excerpt

The establishment and development of the Hispanic bilingual, bicultural psychiatric programs, advocates expected, would eventually lead to the production of "culturally sensitive" modalities of psychiatric assessment and treatment. These modalities could be applied to mentally ill Hispanics and replicated in other ethnic mental health programs - specialized programs for members of other identified/identifiable ethnic groups. The "ethnicization" of mental health care would thus become accepted public policy on the basis of its legitimation through the institutionalization of these Hispanic programs. Presumably, then, their existence had wide-ranging medical, institutional, political, and symbolic implications, not just for the ethnic group involved but for others in the city, the state, and even perhaps the nation.


Crucial to the development of the bilingual, bicultural psychiatric programs was the designation of Hispanics as a population especially "at risk" of mental illness, so as to mobilize their entitlement to public resources. Equally crucial to the programs, the development of culturally sensitive care, and the po- litical redistribution of resources was the representation that culture can cure, that is, that by surrounding patients with elements of their culture and through the use of the native language, mental conditions can be healed-or at least mitigated (4; 5).

Santiago-Irizarry, V. "Culture as Cure." Cultural Anthropology 11.1(1996): 3–24.

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