Indian vs. American Culture for Mentally Ill Patients


Mental illness is a condition present in all societies though viewed differently depending on the society’s culture. In this case what can be defined as a mild condition of the mental illness in one society can be seen as a normal condition in another society.

The American and the Indian cultures contributes to the way the two societies view the psychological disorder, the causes of the disorder and the beliefs associated with the controlling attributes of the health outcomes.

The Indian views on psychological disorders

They have negative views in relation to psychological disorders due to the following reasons:

  • Mental illness is a long term condition
  • It is a condition that is inherited
  • It is incurable
  • Not a condition to be influenced by individual efforts (Clum & Yang, 1994).

American views on the psychological disorder

  • The Americans belief that mental illness is a condition that requires medical care
  • A person can only be regarded as mentally ill if his/her behavior deviate from the normal behaviors of the society
  • They also view mental illness as a condition associated to psychological factors (Millet et al, 1996).

Effects of the views on the mental illness

The views held by Indians on the psychological disorders creates the following impacts:

  • It leads to social untrustworthiness for the affected family in the society
  • Causes shame to the family with the mentally ill person
  • Fear to seek the psychological medication due to stigmatization (Andrew & Furnham, 1996).

Causal attribution of mental illness in the Indian community

The cause of the mental illness is among the key factors that determines the kind of medication to seek for the individual affected mentally

Indians attribute the causes of mental illness to factors not influenced by individuals but to supernatural factors like:

Evil eyes, God’s punishment, sinful acts, hexes, lack of faith and genetically inherited (Clum & Yang, 1994).

Causal attribution of mental illness in the American community

The society believes that mental illness is a condition caused by psychological factors such as depression and not physical causes such as the supernatural factors as believed by the Indians (Millet et al, 1996).

Locus of controlling health outcomes

The locus of controlling the health outcomes in cases of psychological disorders are discussed as either internal or external.

For the Americans who believe that the health outcome results due personal influence an internal locus of control is relevant in the process of improving their health.

The external locus of control is applicable to those who believe that the health outcome is as a result of the physical factors like in the case of the Indians. (Andrew & Furnham, 1996).

Factors influencing treatment-seeking behavior

The factors that determine the kind of medication an individual seeks include

Beliefs of mental illnesses.

The causes of the psychological disorder.

The locus of controlling the health outcome in the mentally ill patients (Andrew & Furnham, 1996).

Form of medication in the two cultures

The American seek the psychological treatments by visiting the psychiatrists

The Indians on the other hand seek folk treatment and religious healers (Andrew & Furnham, 1996).


Attribution of mental illnesses to supernatural causes as well the negative views of the psychological disorders contributes to the unwillingness to accept the condition and therefore not ready to seek medication.


Andrew, R. & Furnham, A. (1996). A cross-cultural study of attitudes towards seeking psychological help. Psychological Report, 79, 289-290.

Clum, G. & Yang, B. (1994). Measure of life stress and social support specific to an Asian student population. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 17(1), 51-67.

Millet, P., Myers, L., Schewebel, A. & Sullivan, B. (1996). Black Americans’ and White Americans’ views of the etiology and treatment of mental health problems. Community Mental Health Journal, 32(3), 235-242.