Playing helpless witness to a growing epidemic with no cure takes us back in time. The Hippocratics called it the “art” of medicine. It does not take a psychiatrist, however, to see that this “artful” approach frequently fails in public health crises.
It is a source of shame for our nation that for most Americans in need—especially those with serious mental illness—the mental health system is dysfunctional. Nevertheless, we can fix some of the ways the system is broken.
To determine a treatment plan, psychiatrists may consider the social and cultural context before they attempt to formulate an assessment and diagnosis of depression or another psychiatric disorder. The Cultural Formulation gives us the tools to do just that.