This dissertation examines issues of language, measurement, meaning, vulnerability, and resilience as they relate to the study of mental distress. I draw on interpretive and political economy theoretical orientations to argue that investigations of mental distress must combine attention to systems of meaning-making and structural violence. In the first chapter, I consider how bridging anthropology and epidemiology can advance measurement in global mental health, balancing the sometimes competing goals of ethnographic validity and cross-cultural comparison. In chapter 2, I examine the idiom of distress reflechi twòp (“thinking too much”), a cultural syndrome that indexes intense rumination and social isolation, often linked to perceived failure and lack of agency due to economic conditions. I argue that this idiom of distress serves as an indirect critique of the structural violence at its root.
Creating Opportunity After Crisis: Examining the Development of the Post-Earthquake Haitian Mental Health Care System
The scope of this theoretical study is comprised of an extensive review and interpretation of published studies by governmental organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO); non-governmental organizations (NGOs); and individuals detailing the theories, concepts, and relationships that exist regarding the social and economic effects of the global burden of mental health disorders and the substantial treatment gap of mental health conditions in low-resourced settings such as Haiti.