Perspectives of Traditional Healers in the Sedibeng District of Gauteng on mental illness and collaborative work with western mental health care

Mondlana, Sibongile
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Background: People with mental illness in South Africa consult traditional healers. Collaboration between westernized mental healthcare services and traditional healers has been proposed to improve healthcare outcomes. This study aimed to explore the perceptions of traditional healers in the Sedibeng District of collaboration with mental health professionals. Methods: A qualitative study with individual in-depth interviews was conducted. A purposive sample of traditional healers in the Sedibeng district was recruited and interviewed in their practice-setting. The framework approach was employed to analyse the data. Results: Seven traditional healers were interviewed. All were involved in HIV/AIDS, hypertension and diabetes screening but had little contact with mental healthcare services. Several explanatory models for the causes of mental illness were held, but psychotic and non-psychotic symptoms were accurately identified. Although six participants recognized a role for western mental healthcare services, all participants believed that western mental healthcare cannot treat mental illness of supernatural cause. All participants reported feeling disrespected by healthcare practitioners. They felt their understanding of the patient and their family should be taken into consideration. Most wanted educational workshops to improve their mental health knowledge. Conclusion: Collaboration between traditional healers and Sedibeng mental health services is a possibility but requires effort in mutual respect and communication
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Medicine in the branch of Psychiatry, 2021