Psychology needs to shift from an individual model to a holistic, contextual and cultural model to contribute meaningfully to the United Nations’ agenda for sustainable development 2030
The new UN development agenda for 2030 has health, including mental health (MH) and well-being (WB), as an important goal for sustainable development (SD). Psychology as a discipline can contribute to this agenda because it is at the crossroads, the intersection between the individual and the environment, and can guide the building of economic/social/cultural environments that sustain MH and WB along with physical health (PH). Psychology is also at the crossroads as a discipline. The current dominant scientific and increasingly biologically based paradigm of psychology deals only with the material aspects of existence and may not be adequate to the task of building a sustainable environment. It emphasizes the biological aspects of individual psychological functioning and leaves out the connection with and impact of the social environment on MH and WB.
A new paradigm in psychology is called for, one that is based on a holistic model drawn from non-Western cultures that includes all the levels of functioning from the biological to the spiritual, and that addresses the individual’s relationship with the social and natural environment within which the individual has to function. It could integrate the scientific biological approach with indigenous theories of connection with nature and with community. This would change the paradigm to one that is more relevant to building a sustainable society that nurtures the health and WB of its members. Mainstream psychology can maintain the status quo and the dominance of scientific psychology, or shift to a paradigm with a holistic understanding of human functioning. This has implications for SD, including social policy and programme development and implementation. This article from ‘Psychology and Developing Societies’ will develop this argument within the framework of the new UN 2030 SD agenda, which is dependent on the creation of a social, cultural and economic environment that fosters ‘healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages’ (goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda).
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The author argues that if psychologists are to contribute meaningfully to the United Nations’ agenda for sustainable development (SD) 2030, they will need to shift from a model that is biologically based individual model to a holistic, contextual and cultural model. Global media and consumer culture have created unhealthy, social and cultural environments, which are seen as having an adverse effect on psychological health. The article focuses on the culture change coming about due to advancement of technology, changes in values of society and acculturation as the reasons for decrement in mental health (MH) and well-being (WB). Integration of mainstream psychology with indigenous psychology can guide building of environments that sustain physical health and MH as well as societal sustainability.
Click here to read Psychology at the Crossroads: Sustainable Development or Status Quo? for free from Psychology and Developing Societies.