The effect of cultural dislocation on the perception of mental health treatment in Ghanaian

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Global Studies


This ethnographic study aims to explore the issue of cultural dislocation in how Ghanaian
communities in North London perceive what constitutes effective mental health treatment.
Cultural dislocation is defined as 'the removal of a person from a location organized by a
particular set of cultural practices and placing them in another location organized by a
substantially different set of cultural practices' (Dajani, 2018, 1). By undertaking a multisited
ethnography in North London and Ghana, I will analyse the effects of this physical and
emotional dislocation from a shared cultural system upon what Ghanaian people expect from
their mental health care, and ideas of continuity and change in beliefs from home to host
contexts. I will interview psychiatrists and patients in both the UK and Ghana and compare
and contrast ideas around mental health in both spaces.
The Ghanaian diaspora in the UK has doubled in size in the twenty first century to over
113,000 people and a recent study found that over half suffered from psychosocial stress
(Awuah et al. 2018). The active promotion of a hostile environment policy alongside stresses
related to being an ethnic minority in post-Brexit Britain has fostered a state of
precariousness and situationally-induced stress factors for migrants which has heightened
the risk of mental health issues occurring and made the challenges encountered with
treatment even more complex. This treatment is also affected by a lack of cultural awareness
and evidence of institutionalised racism within UK healthcare, in which black people are four
times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act compared to the rest of the
population (Singh et al. 2014).
This research will explore: a) mental health policy and social provision in the UK; b) how
migration affects attitudes towards mental health and self-perception; and c) conceptions of
mental illness in home and host context institutions. Building on the 'illness narratives'
approach developed by medical anthropologist Arthur Kleinman and used subsequently by
Krause in her study of Ghanaians in London, I will explore the UK context of social and
healthcare provision through individual experiences of mental health in the diaspora.
Narrative ethnography is a means of engaging with interlocutors in more depth by exploring
their experiences through modes of storytelling. By detailing specific cases, this study will
draw on themes evident within home and host communities of medical pluralism and
contextualise these experiences within the wider issues evident in UK mental health
provision for migrants.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00072X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2442260 Studentship ES/P00072X/1 30/09/2020 30/09/2024 Alexis Still