Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 500–528 | Cite as

Culture, Stress and Recovery from Schizophrenia: Lessons from the Field for Global Mental Health

  • Neely Laurenzo Myers
Cultural Case Study


This cultural case study investigates one U.S. psychosocial rehabilitation organization’s (Horizons) attempt to implement the recovery philosophy of the U.S. Recovery Movement and offers lessons from this local attempt that may inform global mental health care reform. Horizons’ “recovery-oriented” initiatives unwittingly mobilized stressful North American discourses of valued citizenship. At times, efforts to “empower” people diagnosed with schizophrenia to become esteemed self-made citizens generated more stressful sociocultural conditions for people whose daily lives were typically remarkably stressful. A recovery-oriented mental health system must account for people diagnosed with schizophrenia’s sensitivity to stress and offer consumers contextually relevant coping mechanisms. Any attempt to export U.S. mental health care practices to the rest of the world must acknowledge that (1) sociocultural conditions affect schizophrenia outcomes; (2) schizophrenia outcomes are already better in the developing world than in the United States; and (3) much of what leads to “better” outcomes in the developing world may rely on the availability of locally relevant techniques to address stress.


Schizophrenia Recovery Psychosocial rehabilitation Anthropology Mental health 



This publication was made possible, in part, by Grant 5-T32-AT000052 from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NCCAM. The author would like to thank Tanya Luhrmann and Kim Hopper for their comments on early drafts.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Study of Complementary and Alternative TherapiesUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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