Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Copeland, Toni J.

Committee Member

Hoffman, David M.

Committee Member

McClellan, Kate

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


Applied Anthropology

Degree Name

Master of Arts


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures


Mental illness is a complex phenomenon that is social and psychological as well as biological. But since the creation of the DSM-III in the 1980s, the landscape of mental health research and treatment in the United States has been heavily influenced by the biomedical model. The thoughts and beliefs of the lay public about mental illness are often ignored despite the push for greater cultural understanding among biomedical professionals. This disconnect, coupled with the poor mental health infrastructure, has left Mississippi with an inadequate ability to help Mississippians address mental illness. This research uses cognitive anthropological methods and biocultural theory to begin to address this disconnect. A shared cultural model of mental illness by causes, symptoms, and treatments was found. There were systematic differences between the two groups’ knowledge of causes of mental illness. Understanding these will assist in providing more culturally appropriate care for the mentally ill.



cultural models||cultural consensus analysis||mental illness||lay conceptions||cognitive anthropology