The Theory of Industrial Society and Cultural Schemata: Does the "Cultural Myth of Stigma" Underlie the WHO Schizophrenia Paradox?

The WHO's International Studies of Schizophrenia conclude that schizophrenia may have a more benign course in "developing" societies than in the West. The authors focus on this finding's most common corollary: cultural schemata are shaped by the transition from agrarian to industrial society. Developing societies are viewed as traditional, gemeinschaft cultures lacking the stigmatizing beliefs about persons with mental illness held in modern, gesellschaft cultures of developed societies. The Stigma in Global Context-Mental Health Study formalized the cultural myth of public stigma (CMPS) with propositions linking level of development to intolerant, exclusionary, and individualistic attitudes. In 17 countries, the authors find no support for the corollary; where support is found, the findings are opposite expectations, with developed societies reporting lower stigma levels. Reconceptualizing of the cultural landscape on more specific dimensions also produces null or contrary findings. This correction to nostalgic myths of cultural context in developing societies thwarts misguided treatment, policy, and stigma-reduction efforts.

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