Encyclopedia of Immigrant Health

2012 Edition
| Editors: Sana Loue, Martha Sajatovic

Mental Health

  • Rob Whitley
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-5659-0_502

Research into the mental health of immigrants has been a significant subspecialty of psychiatry for almost 100 years. Odegaard could be considered one of the founding fathers of this subspecialty. In his famous 1932 paper “Emigration and Insanity,” he notes that Norwegian immigrants to the United States have higher rates of “insanity.” He argues that this can be explained by the selective migration of “weak” people from Norway, as evidenced by histories of poor social adaption prior to migration. This hypothesis reflected popular beliefs at the time that European immigrants (especially those from Southern and Eastern Europe) to the United States were predisposed to “insanity” and other forms of “weakness” such as alcoholism. Unfortunately, these popular beliefs were somewhat perpetuated by significant figures within mainstream psychology and psychiatry, backed up by dubious empirical and theoretical scholarship. As cogently argued by Stephen Jay Gould, this was used to justify...

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Suggested Readings

  1. Anbesse, B., Hanlon, C., Alem, A., Packer, S., & Whitley, R. (2009). Migration and mental health: A study of low-income Ethiopian women working in middle-eastern countries. The International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 55, 557–568.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bhugra, D. (2000). Migration and schizophrenia. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 102(407), 68–73.Google Scholar
  3. Cantor-Graae, E., & Selten, J. P. (2005). Schizophrenia and migration: A meta-analysis and review. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(1), 12–24.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Escobar, J., Nervi, C., & Gara, M. (2000). Immigration and mental health: Mexican Americans in the United States. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 8(2), 64–72.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Hutchinson, G., & Haasen, C. (2004). Migration and schizophrenia: The challenges for European psychiatry and implications for the future. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 39(5), 350–357.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Kirmayer, L. J., Weinfeld, M., Burgos, G., Du Fort, G. G., Lasry, J. C., & Young, A. (2007). Use of health care services for psychological distress by immigrants in an urban multicultural milieu. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 52, 295–304.Google Scholar
  7. Kleinman, A. (1988). The illness narratives: Suffering, healing and the human condition. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  8. Luhrman, T. (2007). Social defeat and the culture of chronicity: Or why schizophrenia does so well over there and so badly here. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 31, 135–172.Google Scholar
  9. Whitley, R., Kirmayer, L. J., & Groleau, D. (2006). Understanding immigrants' reluctance to use mental health services: A qualitative study from Montreal. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 51, 205–209.Google Scholar

Suggested Resources

  1. Nathan Kline Institute Center of Excellence in Culturally Competent Mental Health Care. http://ssrdqst.rfmh.org/cecc/. Accessed April 30, 2011.
  2. The Multicultural Mental Health Resource Center of Canada. http://www.mmhrc.ca/. Accessed April 30, 2011.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rob Whitley
    • 1
  1. 1.Douglas Mental Health University InstituteMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada