Culture and Mental Health by Sarah Davis

Health and culture seem to be intertwined in every society. Instead, it is mental or physical health, culture has an effect on how it is viewed and explained to the public. Media portrayal is a huge part of promoting health care systems in America and other first world countries. While in Zanzibar, I did not notice many ads on TV for healthcare, but there are multiple health clinics throughout the city of Stone Town. There are pharmacies, clinics, and I saw one hospital on the outskirt of town.

"I think it is instilled in people to be grateful for what you have, not complain about what you don’t."

I never saw anyone with a severe health problem, but seriousness is dependant on a culture or a people. The only person I ever saw that was sick was a boy in our host family, and no one was seriously worried about it. Hakuna Matata means “No worries,” and many people I met lived life that way. There was always this go with the flow vibe on the island that I was very curious about how it affected health as a whole. 


Mental health care is a huge part of life and the way people handle it is entirely different. Some people support therapy, psychiatrists, and medicine, while other people support holistic methods like nutrition, diet, and stress relieving activities. Other ways it can be handled is ignoring problems as a whole and keeping moving from day to day. I think people around the world treat many issues this way, and it gives us the view into cultures, socio-economic statuses, and more. 

When we would talk to people, many people would call Zanzibar perfect. They did not acknowledge the existence of poor people, LGBT people, or other people would be frowned upon. I thought that it was psychotic that no one was mentioning any of these things, but I do the same thing when people ask me about my home. I don’t immediately bring up the homeless person population, the unemployment rate, police brutality, or the gun control problem here in the U.S. When tasked with talking about where you’re from, it’s highlights, and the things you love..the terrible things never come up first. 


Once I realized that people often do the same thing when asked how they are or are asked about their health. Many people that I met minimized any problems with responses to what they are thankful actually to have in this lifetime. I think it is instilled in people to be grateful for what you have, not complain about what you don’t. It is a way to get by day-to-day, but it is concerning when serious health problems come into play. But, again, I never saw someone seriously injured or sick while I was in Zanzibar.

While every culture is different, the way I saw problems handled reminded me that there are many similarities when coping. 

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