Politics and medicine remain uncomfortable bedfellows, especially in psychiatry, where social and anti-psychiatry theories have led to seismic shifts in practice and teaching. In Prozak Diaries, Orkideh Behrouzan, a physician and anthropologist, gives an informative account on how socio-historical contexts – post-1979 revolution and the 1980–1988 Iran–Iraq war – shaped psychiatry and in turn a social discourse on mood and affect in Iran.
Prozak Diaries offers a cultural critique of trauma theories in psychoanalysis as well as narrative psychiatry, by exploring generational memories of the Iranian youth and asking how generations are shaped in relation to an emerging biomedical model. The book combines clinical and anthropological outlooks in order to offer a historical analysis of shifting cultural interpretations of feeling states into medicalised modes of thought, cultural remembering, media discourses, and about the unwritten history of modern psychiatry in Iran. French-trained psychiatrists who returned to Iran at the turn of the 20th century had introduced mainly neurobiological theories, with psychotherapeutic theories being later arrivals. During the Iranian Cultural Revolution (1980–1983) most universities closed and biomedical models became further entrenched. Shifting mental healthcare policies of the 1980s then contributed to a public psychiatric discourse in the media as well as several pedagogical milestones within academic psychiatry.
Psychiatric nomenclature has now become part of everyday discourse, pervasive among ordinary Iranians as well as the political and clerical hierarchy. Depreshen, with related symptoms and treatments, despite early antagonism and stigma, is set as the main example; this is poignant, given Gallup's recent ranking of Iran with highest negative emotions in the world second to Iraq! Prozak Diaries also looks at the diagnosis of ADHD and high rates of antidepressant prescription with pervasive over-medicalisation, in order to provide a critique of the DSM in different historical and cultural contexts. Behrouzan researched the Persian blogosphere and cultural and artistic productions, in particular the publications of the ‘1980s generation’.
The book will interest doctors at all levels of training, especially those interested in cross-cultural, historical and political aspects of psychiatry. As a UK-trained Iranian psychiatrist, and an immigrant of the 1980s generation, I specially related to Prozak Diaries. The book is a valuable adjunct in assisting the management of patients affected by the recent Middle Eastern conflicts.