A brief post following up from the last couple about east-west cultural differences and hearing voices: Science News on 1/24/15 had a story showing that culture affects how voices as heard by schizophrenics are different between eastern and western cultures. Remember from last post these cultures differ in how they treat the self, west as self-important and east as self-relevant. Many of the voices heard in the west (USA) were hostile and some were hallucinatory commands to hurt oneself or others. Many of these voices heard in the east (India & Ghana) were more sensible and likable, often someone familiar and from their past offering advice and commanding them to do chores. The subjects mostly endorsed being religious so that was not a difference (though the religions were no doubt different). It also seems that in the east communicating with spirits and ghosts is more accepted and commonplace while in the west, at least officially in psychiatric circles, this is not.
The article mentions that research has shown that schizophrenia is more severe and longer lasting in the west than in the east and that is in part explained by cultural differences. Certainly the western view, focusing on self-worth rather than self-relevance, would seem to make stigma a more potent force and contribute more to the isolation and ostracism many of those with mental illness (and other differences) experience. Sometimes progress is double-edged. Psychiatric medications revolutionized treatment beginning in the 60s and permitted more to live in the community but while mental health patients, providers and advocates work to mitigate against stigma, I will say that quite often seems like spitting into the wind. Parity in insurance coverage has been mandated (a major advance) but is still resisted. If you examine state budgets, funding mental health treatment is the last to be increased and first to be cut. Most increases come after huge and public tragedies; most decreases come the next budget cycle. The money does matter but the lack of caring and active rejection matter more. And our cultures do affect how our brains function for better or worse.