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Compr Psychiatry. 1991 Nov-Dec;32(6):534-51.

Psychiatric stigma in non-Western societies.

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Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.


Factors bearing on social stigma in persons with a psychiatric illness are the subject of this review of the literature. The review concentrates on material pertaining to non-Western societies. This is a topic that has not received much systematic attention. The cultural meanings associated with psychiatric illness are examined. Emphasis is given to societies ordinarily studied by anthropologists and social historians of non-Western medicine. Stigma is variable in the more elementary societies. It is present in India and especially China, and studies suggest the social stigma is less prevalent in Islamic societies. It is important to distinguish between how psychiatric illness is handled in community settings as versus in the system and tradition of medicine.

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