Treating Mental Illness Around the World

Susan M. Long, Lake Forest College
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This activity has students read an article about mental health treatment in Non-Western cultures. Students read 1 of 4 articles (selected by the instructor) and then they meet in groups during class to discuss a number of questions I pose for them. Each student teaches the other students about mental health treatment described in his/her article and they discuss the similarities and differences. Then the instructor brings the class together for two final questions for discussion as a class.

Learning Goals

  1. Learning about treatment in Non-Western cultures.
  2. Critically thinking about their article and synthesizing the point of view in their article with different points of view.
  3. Reading a peer-reviewed journal article.

Context for Use

This activity is for a 100-level, non-psychology major course in cross-cultural psychology. It could also be used in a clinical psychology course.

Description and Teaching Materials

Included are 1) the questions each student answers independently while reading his/her assigned article and 2) the questions students answer in groups during class.

Mental Health Treatment Article Questions for Students (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 11kB Jul13 11)
Mental Health Treatment Class Discussion Questions (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 17kB Jul13 11)

Teaching Notes and Tips

I have students print out a copy of their article notes in order to 1) force them to read the article and 2) have them begin processing the article ahead of time. They can use their notes for the in-class discussion.

I post the Discussion Questions (File 2) on an overhead and save the last 2 questions for the entire class to discuss together.


This activity is graded on a check/check-plus/check-minus system, based on their notes and their group notes. The goal is to have students critically examine their own culture and place Western mental health treatments as a small part of how mental illness is treated globally. This is assessed primarily with the class discussion around the final 2 questions on the Discussion Questions handout.

References and Resources

Finding articles describing healers and mental health experts in other countries is difficult, as is finding articles that are appropriate for freshmen. Therefore, I choose 4 current articles (the oldest is from 2008) about treatment in specific countries. The instructor should screen and assign articles to students.