edited by Kamaldeep Bhui and Dinesh Bhugra; London, Hodder Arnold, 2007, 376 pages, $180
Dr. Ruiz is a professor and vice-chair of clinical affairs, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Texas, Houston.
The book Culture and Mental Health attempts to offer a thorough perspective of the role of culture in the most important aspects of mental health. This book goes beyond the boundaries of cultural psychiatry and is published during a very important historical period. The globalization process has reached all corners of the world, as well as all ethnic and racial groups. One of the core aspects of this globalization process is the cultural characteristics of all persons or population groups affected by or involved with it. This volume offers a unique opportunity to use a rich set of resources to address all relevant issues pertaining to mental health and mental illness among different population groups around the world.
An asset of this book is its editors. Bhui and Bhugra have spent several decades of their lives developing, delivering, and understanding mental health services systems in England that are directed to persons from different cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial subgroups. Additionally, their perspectives have been broad and encompass education, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, theology, and epidemiology, with strong emphasis on research and investigational perspectives. Culture, in this context, offers them the opportunity to link all of these topics within the scope of mental health. This, in my opinion, represents the uniqueness of this book, in addition to its creative alternative models to understand and treat, from a mental health point of view, different populations from all over the world.
Another positive aspect of this textbook is the international perspective that it offers. This book attempts to focus on all regions of the world with considerable success. Other books have been published previously on the topic of cross-cultural psychiatry with emphasis on different ethnic or racial groups living in a given country or geographical region, but these books do not focus on different ethnic or racial groups in their own environmental conditions or geographical areas.
I must, however, underline that this type of approach or model requires a deeper and more extensive focus and review. Take, for instance, the four chapters dedicated to the Latin American region, South America and the Carribean. Although quite good, these chapters do not represent all of the major contributions made in the field of cross-cultural psychiatry in this region. Actually, during the last two or three decades, Latin America has made major contributions in this field. I could also extend this opinion to the other regions of the world addressed in this textbook. Nevertheless, the authors have easily achieved their intentions in this regard.
The idea of dividing this text into two sections, one focusing on basic sciences and the other on mental health, is not only excellent for its educational applications but also offers a very informative comparative perspective between the two fields.
Finally, the authors selected as contributors to this book are all well-recognized scholars and experts in the fields of cross-cultural psychiatry, mental health, or both. I wish to congratulate Bhui and Bhugra for their excellent scholarly contribution, not only to the fields of cross-cultural psychiatry and mental health but to the field of psychiatry at large as well.