Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Culture Factors Unfavorable to Mental Health


There are many factors in our culture which produce mental disorder or these negatively influence our mental health. Everyone who is member of a society must follow the norms and values of that particular society in order to become a socially acceptable man/woman.  Some cultural factors may cause poor individual mental health due to so many role conflicts, conflict between broader cultural expectations from individual and the personal priorities of an individual, pressing rules and laws of a
society etc.

There seems to be at least two different kinds of conditions which are favorable to the production of aberrant personality or mental disorder. The first condition is that a culture may make excessive demands which are not easy for an individual to fulfill. For example, all soldiers are expected to be fearless and physically strong, they are supposed to lay their lives for the cause of the country, likewise, all students are expected to pass with graceful marks, all wives are supposed to be extremely loyal to their husbands, and all men all educated individuals are expected to get a good job. All these expectations from society may get in conflict with individual’s mental, physical, and biological competence to do all this. The individual may face many conditions, whether accidentally or socially created, which do not allow him/her to turn out all what the society is expecting from her/him.

The examples for above said facts are many in the society. One is suppose Akram is a student and he in his high schooling. He is expected to get good marks in this age of tough competition. He is poor and cannot afford extra tuition and the school in which he studies is not a good school because his parents cannot afford expensive education. He is not given pocket money and standard books. He suffers tension and stress due all his deprivations. As a result he could not concentrate his studies well and fails in annual examinations. He is than regarded and branded a weak student. His parents may make him leave his study and they may incorporate him in their daily chores or business. This situation will lead poor Akram towards mental disorder.

Role Conflict and Mental Health

Every culture has set specific roles for every status in the society. For example a Father is a status and his roles include, facilitate better educational career of the children fulfilling their every educational need. He is expected to earn money for economic needs of the family. He is expected to manage and maintain shelter and food supply for the family. Then a father is not only a father but at the same time he is a husband, a son, an uncle, a businessman, a colleague, a traveler, a customer, a neighbor etc. in fact we are playing more than one role at the same time. Every role has some expectation attached to it by the society.

When an individual is unable to fulfill the expectation from one role at the cost of the expectation from other role, this situation is called role conflict. For example, as a friend, an individual is expected to join his friends at the grand party organized by one of his best friends. But at the same time he is expected to take his mother to the doctor as she has is seriously ill and has an appointment with the doctor. The individual is in serious trouble. He can play only one role; either of a son or of a friend. He is facing role conflict. This is an ordinary example. There many more serious conditions which cause mental stress and tension for individuals. This type of mental conflicts causes mental problems in individuals.

Such conflicts are more common in modern society where life has got very complicated and one has to deal with a lot of people at the same time.

Cultural Conflict in Modern Society

Cultural conflict in modern society is another important factor unfavorable to mental health. We have to deal with variety of cultures in our daily life. Urban rural interaction has provided a channel to the people of both cultures to come closer to each other to share their cultural elements. So the people of rural areas now have interaction and formal and informal relationships with those of urban areas. The interaction between two different cultures creates conflict of values and traditions. For example, a rural woman married to an urban man may face a lot of problems related to eating and sleeping habits, social life and sociability, adjustment with modern technology and material culture etc. all this can lead to failure in performing many roles properly and efficiently which will further lead to criticism of others. She will face mental stress and tension consequently

There are more examples like this; a business deal between urban and rural folks. As we can see that rural people are generally people oriented but urban people are money oriented.
Moreover one culture is divided against itself. For example, we are taught transcendent value of brotherly love, of friendship, and selflessness. The way to find happiness, we are told, is to live for others not for self. We are taught all good values and the value of humanity to us. We are taught to forgive, to respect elders and love younger

On the other hand we are taught honor killing, joining and facilitating our relatives in their clashes with others, protecting our blood relations even on the cost of any one’s life. We are in serious stress when we have to do something against our beliefs and attitude. We learn many positive things like human values in school and college and, in practical life we are frequently entangled in conditions requiring us to do against that knowledge.

Competition and Mental Health

our culture stresses intense individual competition. Whether it be in schools, in business or in sports, we are engaged in a contest for superiority over others. One man’s success is another man’s failure. A result of such competitions is the growth of hostility among individuals; another is fear lest one fail. The fear of failure is a cause of stress and anxiety. The belief that failure will lead to lowered self-esteem and a sense of isolation from others is painful.

The wealth, power and prestige are indicators of social status and social superiority in a particular culture. The tough competition among individuals for these values also creates conflict in society. The competition involves negative ways to get ahead to others. We manipulate others; we cheat others, generating stress for them.

Social Sanctions and Mental Health

A second cleavage in our culture is the intense stimulation of desires and the limitations imposed on satisfying the desires. Culture has determined the standards for a socially desired economic status; good job, good house, good car, well established business, good social capital etc. So culture has stimulated the individuals to get all this. But at the same time culture ask the individuals to follow only some approved means and ways to get all these economics. To widen the gap between what people want and what they can actually have is to make for wide spread discontent and nervousness. All of us are, of course are exposed to these contradictions in our culture , but those who, for one  reason or another, experience the conflict are likely to become neurotic. They may be called, says Horney[1], “the stepchildren of our culture”.


[1] Karen Horney, The Neurotic Personality of Our Time, Chap. Xv, “Culture and Neurosis” (London, 1937).

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