In order to examine Western psychiatry in a world context, its position must be assessed in the light of what is known — and can be known — about culture and race. Account must be taken of the differences in background between the culture in which psychiatry has grown up — broadly termed Western culture — and the cultures of the vast majority of mankind; and of the racism that has permeated into psychiatry throughout its development, informing and fashioning its theory and practice. And a historical view must lead to an examination of the present. The basic questions that arise today concern the validity and relevance of Western psychiatry — its belief systems, its ethos, its philosophy and its stance on race. It is essential to consider whether cultural sensitivity and anti-racism needs to be incorporated into the discipline so that psychiatry may address itself positively to all cultures and all races on equal terms. But that may not be enough. The context in which psychiatry functions globally must be borne in mind in the course of these discussions. As Western influence and economic power spreads across the globe, its ways of thinking about health and illness, including mental health and mental illness, follow suit.
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