‘Whether you like it or not people with mental problems are going to go to them’: A qualitative exploration into the widespread use of traditional and faith healers in the provision of mental health care in Ghana

Abstract

Limited research has been conducted to explore the factors that support or obstruct collaboration between traditional healers and public sector mental health services. The first aim of this study was to explore the reasons underpinning the widespread appeal of traditional/faith healers in Ghana. This formed a backdrop for the second objective, to identify what barriers or enabling factors may exist for forming bi-sectoral partnerships. Eighty-one semi-structured interviews and seven focus group discussions were conducted with 120 key stakeholders drawn from five of the ten regions in Ghana. The results were analysed through a framework approach. Respondents indicated many reasons for the appeal of traditional and faith healers, including cultural perceptions of mental disorders, the psychosocial support afforded by such healers, as well as their availability, accessibility and affordability. A number of barriers hindering collaboration, including human rights and safety concerns, scepticism around the effectiveness of ‘conventional’ treatments, and traditional healer solidarity were identified. Mutual respect and bi-directional conversations surfaced as the key ingredients for successful partnerships. Collaboration is not as easy as commonly assumed, given paradigmatic disjunctures and widespread scepticism between different treatment modalities. Promoting greater understanding, rather than maintaining indifferent distances may lead to more successful co-operation in future.

Citation

International Review of Psychiatry (2010) 22 (6) 558–567 [doi:10.3109/09540261.2010.536149]

‘Whether you like it or not people with mental problems are going to go to them’: A qualitative exploration into the widespread use of traditional and faith healers in the provision of mental health care in Ghana

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