'Folk' explanations of mental illness in rural Laos

J. Westermeyer, R. Wintrob

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


To obtain 'folk' explanations of specific cases of mental illness the authors interviewed 35 baa (insane) Laotian individuals and their relatives and neighbors. They obtained 54 explanations; 15 focused on supernatural causes, 15 on physical causes, 14 on social problems, and 10 on psychological states. Although 31 theories (57%) focused on etiologic factors familiar to clinical psychiatrists, many self-evident factors (such as familial prevalence) were not mentioned. Except for 3 cases, responsibility for the illness was attributed to factors outside the subject's control. This view of mental illness absolves the baa person from blame and ensures support from the social group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)901-905
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 1979


Dive into the research topics of ''Folk' explanations of mental illness in rural Laos'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this