World Social Psychiatry

: 2019  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 30--32

Toward an ecosocial psychiatry

Laurence J Kirmayer 
 James McGill Professor and Director, Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University; Director, Culture and Mental Health Research Unit, Institute of Community and Family Psychiatry, Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Laurence J Kirmayer
Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University, 1033 Pine Ave West, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1A1

Social psychiatry is grounded in the recognition that we are fundamentally cultural beings. To advance the field, we need integrative theory and practical tools to better understand, assess, and intervene in the social-ecological cultural systems that constitute our selves and personhood. Cognitive science supports the view that mental processes are intrinsically social, embodied, and enacted through metaphor, narrative, and discursive practices. The circuits of the mind, therefore, extend beyond the brain to include our interactions with others through bodily and verbal communication. This ecosocial view of mind, brain, and culture calls for a shift in perspective from a psychiatry centered on brain circuitry and disorders toward one that recognizes social predicaments as the central focus of clinical concern and social systems or networks as a crucial site for explanation and intervention. The ecosocial perspective insists that we consider the powerful effects of structural violence and social inequality as key determinants of health. Social systems also have their own dynamics which can amplify inequities or provide sources of resilience. These social processes are framed, mediated, and maintained by cultural narratives, models, and metaphors. Hence, cultural analysis and critique must be foundational to social psychiatry. This opens the door to a creative engagement with human diversity in all its forms.

How to cite this article:
Kirmayer LJ. Toward an ecosocial psychiatry.World Soc Psychiatry 2019;1:30-32

How to cite this URL:
Kirmayer LJ. Toward an ecosocial psychiatry. World Soc Psychiatry [serial online] 2019 [cited 2023 Jun 6 ];1:30-32
Available from:;year=2019;volume=1;issue=1;spage=30;epage=32;aulast=Kirmayer;type=0