Therapeutic imperialism in disaster- and conflict-affected countries

Authored by: Janaka Jayawickrama , Jo Rose

Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138225473
eBook ISBN: 9781315399584
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter is based on our field research and applied projects in disaster-, conflict- and uneven development-affected Western Darfur (Sudan), Nepal and Syria. We have been collaborating with local organisations and communities in these countries and the information in this chapter is derived from our discussions with these communities and practitioners. Through the case studies, this chapter discusses and explores three critical issues that appear to be missed by most international agencies delivering mental health interventions in humanitarian crises – namely, knowledge imperialism driven by medicalised mental health approaches; the implementation of irrelevant mental health relief interventions; and the inability of medicalised mental health approaches to deal with ongoing conflicts and disasters. Overall, the key question that emerges within this chapter is: are medicalised mental health interventions rooted in European and North American culture and knowledge systems appropriate to non-Western societies?

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