Stigma about mental illness makes life doubly hard for people suffering from mental or emotional distress. In addition to dealing with their conditions, they must also contend with social shame and secrecy. But by examining how mental illness is conceived of and treated in other cultures, we can improve our own perspectives in the Western world. In his new book, Nobody’s Normal: How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness (Norton, 2021), anthropologist Roy Richard Grinker offers a critique of our current mental health system based on cross-cultural observations as well as suggestions for improving upon it. In our interview, we talk about the impact of stigma on mental health treatment and his ideas about where it comes from. He also explains why he feels optimistic about recent trends in the way individuals speak about their mental health challenges.
Roy Richard Grinker is professor of anthropology and international affairs at George Washington University. His specialties include ethnicity, nationalism, and psychological anthropology, with topical expertise in autism, Korea, and sub-Saharan Africa. He is also the director of George Washington University’s Institute for Ethnographic Research and editor-in-chief of the journal Anthropological Quarterly. He is author of several books, including Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism. He lives in Washington, DC.
Eugenio Duarte, Ph.D. is a psychologist and psychoanalyst practicing in Miami. He treats individuals and couples, with specialties in gender and sexuality, eating and body image problems, and relationship issues. He is a graduate and faculty of William Alanson White Institute in Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychology in New York City and former chair of their LGBTQ Study Group; and faculty at Florida Psychoanalytic Institute in Miami. He is also a contributing author to the book Introduction to Contemporary Psychoanalysis: Defining Terms and Building Bridges (2018, Routledge) and has published on issues of gender, sexuality, and sexual abuse.
Eugenio Duarte, Ph.D. is a psychologist and psychoanalyst practicing in Miami.