Culture and Psychopathology; Mental Health in a Cross-Cultural Perspective

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

Like all systems of healing, biomedicine is a cultural product arising from Western industrialized countries. Yet practice of medicine to a large extent has shown very little cognizance to cultural and social factors. Biomedical conception of health and its practice are often transported from one part of the world to the other in packages of absolute truths. Notwithstanding great results, they have sometimes proven to be ineffective and even detrimental to the receiving group of people. Central to this problem is failure on the part of biomedicine to take into account culture's influence on people's attitudes, belief systems, conception of illness and disease, disease aetiology, and health-care seeking behavior. In addition, while certain health problems (e.g. culture-bound syndromes) are difficult to understand using imported biomedical models from the West, they are readily understood within the cultural societies where they are manifested. The crux of this course is to examine mental illness, their manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment in different cultural societies. The following areas of topics will be addressed during the 5-days of lectures.

  • Culture and mental illness: Concepts, issues, models and theories
  • Classification/grouping of mental disorders in diagnostic manuals: culture and methodolog
  • Review of some common mental illness (anxiety, mood, somatoform disorders and schizophrenia from a cultural perspective
  • Culture bound syndromes, cultural validations and their possible links with mental illness in the classification manuals
  • Acculturation, multiculturalism and mental health
  • Cross-cultural and multicultural psychotherapy: Help-seeking behavior, treatment and prognosis

Learning Outcomes


At the end of the module the student should be able to:

  • Understand how culture bound syndromes arise
  • Understand the link between migration and (maI-)adaptation
  • Indigenous healers and healing


  • Describe and determine the cultural variations in the expression, course and outcome of psychopathology
  • Identify and describe the role of cultural variables in the aetiology of mental disorder


  • Be aware how your cultural background may impact on mental illness
  • Understand differences in symptoms expression across cultures
  • Appraise cultural variations in standards of normality and abnormality

ECTS Credits


Level of Study

Post graduate

Semester of Instruction


Place of Instruction

University of Bergen
Required Previous Knowledge
Due to the limited number of spaces available and special entry requirements, admission to this course is limited.
Recommended Previous Knowledge
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
Access to the Course
The course is only for international students/exchange students
Teaching and learning methods
The course will involve in-person and/or online seminars and lectures that requires active student presentation. Students will have to submit a number of essays during the course. These essays will be part of the student¿s examination portfolio.
Teaching Methods and Extent of Organized Teaching

The course will involve formal lectures, interactive group discussions. Otherwise, the students will do a lot of reading and self-reflection on mental disorders from their own society, as well as discuss anThe course will involve formal lectures, interactive group discussions. Otherwise, the students will do a lot of reading and self-reflection on mental disorders from their own society, as well as discuss and interview people from other cultures how mental disorders are defined, identified and treated in their particular society.

At the end of each day's lecture, students will be given a home work. Each home work will involve about 3 -5 hours of work (reading) and the submission of a written essay of about 500 words. Ideally, the essay should be submitted by noon of the following day. All the essays should have been submitted by the last day of lectures. During the 2nd week of the course, students will be expected to do self-study. This self-study will result in a self defined reading objective where the student has to write an annotated summary of 5 articles. This would be 2500 words.

Number of weeks: 2 weeks (1 week face-to-face contact): 1 week self study.

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

Students have to take part in 2 online discussions: One of the discussions will be based on a published article, and the other will be on a video clip.

For both discussions, students will first have to make their written contribution based on the paper/video clip, and then comment/give feedback on at least two other students¿ contribution.

The student has to make a meaningful written contribution for it to be considered acceptable.

Forms of Assessment

Portfolio evaluation

  • There will be 3 Short essays (of up to 500-word long each) and a Long essay of (up to 3000-word long). The 3 short essays each carry 15% of the final mark (Total 45%)
  • The Long essay carries 55% of the final mark. The students will have ONE week to work on the Long essay.

Together, four essays total 100%.

The grading is as follows:

  • A = 80% and higher
  • B = 70 to 79%
  • C = 60 to 69%¿ D = 50 to 59%
  • E = 40 to 49%
  • F = Below 40%The student will have 3 days each to work on the short essays, one after the other.
Grading Scale
The grading scale used is A to F.
Assessment Semester
Reading List
Teaching material will be made known to the students before the start of the semester.
Course Evaluation
The students are expected to evaluate the course at the end of the semester according to procedures set by the Faculty of Psychology
Examination Support Material
No restrictions
Programme Committee
Department of Psychosocial Science
Course Coordinator
Department of Psychosocial Science
Course Administrator
Faculty of Psychology
Department of Psychosocial Science.