Project Proposal

As I have slowly developed my research topic over the course of this class, made it more detailed, focused my topic of focus, I find this chance to write a practical proposal a timely opportunity.  When I began this project, I immediately knew what topic I wanted to research, abnormal psychology in other cultures.  I began studying cross-cultural phenomenon in my high school IB psychology class.  I found myself intrigued by presentation of global abnormal mental illness, as well as culture specific mental illnesses.  The chance to take my interest in cross-cultural abnormal psychology and perform my own ethnographic fieldwork is a truly exciting prospect.

I have sent an email to the mental health clinic on the campus of Tsing Hua University.  If they respond, the location of my research would be this mental health clinic.  The group that I would like to look at would be the patients as well as the doctors.  Further, Fang Jun will be putting me in touch with Beijing University professors. Beijing University has one of the best psychology programs in all of China.  Thus, even if Tsing Hua mental health clinic does not get back to me, I could use those contacts to get in touch with another mental facility.  Further, in my first research blog post, I came across another mental health clinic, Beijing Anding Hospital.  If I was told that I was not allowed to do my fieldwork at Tsing Hua, I would contact Beijing Anding Hospital immediately.

The central question I would like to answer has to do with the underlying cause of the recent spike of depression in China.  While depression is coming into light as a problem in Modern China, it is still not largely acceptable to talk about or admit to having.  I am curious as to why this is the case, and plan to look into the socio-political and economic reasons that may be increasing the prevalence of this mental illness.  My current thought is that, as China becomes more westernized and increasingly a consumer culture, China is also becoming more individualistic.  Individualistic cultures often have a higher rate of depression that collectivist cultures as discussed in my last post.  Another possibility could be that the rapid change in the socio-political and economical states of China over the past sixty years has created a sense of loss of purpose and disillusionment.  In order to determine which underlying factor seems more relevant, I would like to procure the average age of a person who presents at a mental health clinic with depression.  I believe a younger age group would speak to the factors of westernization and consumer culture, which has been prevalent in China for less than thirty years, whereas an older generation would speak to loss of purpose and disillusionment.

When I set foot on the ground in China, I hope to have already laid a solid ground work for my research.  As I said, I have contacted Tsing Hua University.  I hope that if they do not respond to me, I will have the information for Fang Jun for a Beijing University professor.  If Tsing Hua has responded, I will provide them with further information of my plan-of-action, offer to spend my time there not only interacting, but helping in whatever way I can, and implement my plan of action.

AndingIn order to fully address my specific research question, I would like to collect data in a number of ways.  First, I would like to talk to the professors that Fang Jun helping me get in contact with.  I think, by addressing the professors first, I will get an interesting view on how psychology is taught.  Based on the way these professors treat the topic, I stand to learn quite a bit about the way abnormal psychology is treated in the academic community.  Why should I care how depression is treated by academics? The influence they will and have had on the education of mental health practitioners in China.  As all mental health practitioners would be attending programs in schools like Beijing University.  Thus, the way that professor treat depression, not only from a fact standpoint, but from their underlying opinions and feeling about depression, could color, and reflect, the way depression in China as treated.  The cycle is, in some ways, self-fulfilling, the opinions of the public influence the thoughts of academics and in turn, the opinions of academics influence public opinion.

Next, I would like to formally make contact with Tsing Hua, and being integrating myself there.  I would like to be more than just a passive observer, though I am not entirely sure how to participate, which is why I would simply contribute my time and let the clinic decide how best to use me.

After I have a stable position to work from, I would like to conduct semi-planned interviews with pre-drafted questions with some of the doctors who work at the clinic.  The main focus of questioning the doctors will be attempting to isolated underlying circumstances causing depression as well as treatment strategies.

Finally, I would like to talk to patients at the mental health clinic, either in or out of therapy.  I would mostly just like to hear the patients talk and let them decide where to take the conversation.  I think wherever they take the conversation is very telling about their background and their personality.  This could hint at underlying cultural causes for the high rate of depression.

Additionally, I would like to see if I could get general number information from the mental health clinic, such as ages of patients, in order to answer some research questions.

The most interesting aspect of my research question has to do with how current it is and what it could possible say about culture.  Since this is a large cultural phenomenon and has occurred in the past thirty years, it has not been explored in detail.  Thus, while some research has been conducted on the topic, possibly theoretical explanations have not yet been explored.  I excited by the prospect of exploring the depression phenomenon in China without being largely influenced by extensive other research.