Cultural psychiatry is coming of age. It can no longer be thought to involve only unusual syndromes that occur in distant societies. The growing literature in cultural psychiatry attests to the vitality of this field. DSM-IV contains a section on cultural formulations. There is now a major comprehensive textbook on the subject.1 Furthermore, “cultural competence” is becoming a desired attribute in the practice of many health care specialties, in addition to psychiatry. Cultural psychiatry has much to offer other medical specialties.
A number of countries have organizations devoted to the study of cultural psychiatry. In the United States, the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture (www.psychiatryandculture.org) is well established, with high-quality annual meetings. Recently, the World Association of Cultural Psychiatry has been formed (www.waculturalpsychiatry.org), which promises to expand and make much more prominent the types of activities promulgated by the transcultural section of the World Psychiatric Association. As the initial activity of the World Association, the First World Congress of Cultural Psychiatry was held in Beijing, China, in September 2006. There were more than 300 participants from 35 countries. The Second World Congress is being planned for 2009 in Orvieto, Italy.
It is in this context that we are pleased to present this Special Report on Ethnicity, Culture, & Race. The articles in this Report are wide-ranging and touch on a number of intriguing issues, including racial profiling and the effects of religion and culture on presentation, interpretation, and management of psychiatric illness. These articles demonstrate that cultural psychiatry is an important part of everyday clinical practice and remind us that all our patients should be treated with sensitivity, dignity, and awareness of their individuality. Indeed, the principles of cultural psychiatry teach us the importance of understanding each patient's background, as well as our own.
Dr Streltzer is professor of psychiatry, The Queen's Medical Center of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.