In The APA defines mental illness as “health conditions

In order to define mental illness a
framework for the definition of mental health must first be put forward.  In accord to the definition provided by the
WHO (World Health Organization), mental
health is: “… a state of well-being in which the
individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses
of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a
contribution to his or her community” (, 2017). As aforementioned,
mental health comprises of an individual’s capacity to realise one’s own
abilities, coping with the stresses faced in their lives, working productively;
therefore being able to positively contribute towards his or her community. A
mental illness in practice is therefore a state in which an individual is
unable to constitute any one of these social and personal frameworks. Furthermore,
mental illness has a number of different sociological and cultural definitions,
founded by the variety of different cultures and societies it is found in. The
APA defines mental illness as “health conditions involving
changes in thinking, emotion or behaviour (or a combination of these). Mental
illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social,
work or family activities” (, 2017).

illness has historically been viewed in cultural contexts founded upon
religious or spiritual ideals. This most prominently, currently impacts
cultural definitions outside of modern western culture; although as
aforementioned, historically religious or spiritual ideals have also come into
play in Western societies. People have historically been found to attribute
mental illness to a number of religious and spiritual causes, these are namely
defined by “possession
by evil spirits, Djinns or demons, others however, might view a person with
mental illness as being cursed or affected by the work of witchcraft, a
Sorcerer or the devil’s eye. Some might even view such as a religious awakening
or a holy message from God and thereby link it with a higher spirit” (Mehraby,

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the Middle East and Asia, attitudes towards mental illness have generally
remained the same over the years. This is especially true in countries where
there is no pertinent cultural understanding or concept of psychological
problems (Mehraby, 2017). Examples of these countries include Afghanistan,
Vietnam, China, countries with Buddhist majorities, African countries such as Sudan,
Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya and other countries where Arabic culture exists.
From the beginning, in Afghanistan there is no general comprehension of mental
problems (Mehraby, 2017). In this region an individual is
either ‘healthy or mad’ (Mehraby, 2017). In cultures
outside of Western culture, psychological problems are often expressed from the
parenthesis of somatic complaints which include; headaches, backaches and
stomach-aches. This is an acceptable way to express distress in many non-Western
cultures where psychological problems are stigmatising, and sufferers risk
being labelled ‘mad’ (Mehraby, 2017). In many cultures which believe in
Karma, an example being Vietnam; mental illness is seen as a form of punishment
for which the suffers may have sinned in a previous life. Buddhist ideals are
similar to those who believe in Karma in that mental illness is also defined as
a punishment for one’s, or their family’s misdeeds. Further east, exploring the
view of mental illness in Japan; it is often associating with undesirable forms
of weakness in an individual. Before mental illness was even represented as
deviant behaviour, Indian culture, pertinent before the 17C ‘viewed all abnormal
behaviour’ to be acts of the ‘devil’. Taking into account Arab cultures,
traditionally individual’s erratic or deviant behaviour is seen to be in line
with their own or their family’s failure to uphold social values, norms or
expectations (Mehraby, 2017). It is important to ascertain that to this day
mental illness in cultures outside of the West is still viewed within a spiritual
or religious framework; this significantly impacts individuals abilities to
access support in terms of mental health services or any support framework
outside of their own close family and friends, who as aforementioned, can often
be sceptical and judgemental of the mental illnesses themselves.


Western culture mental illness has primarily been associated with deviant
behaviour, as associated with criminality; “in the west, mental illness is often associated with criminals, rapists
and serial killers portraying a discriminatory picture of sufferers as
unpredictable, violent and aggressive” (Mehraby, 2017). In various societies, poor
mental health and mental illness is often associated with deviance; as proposed
and evidenced by


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