Date of Award

5-1-2017

Document Type

Article

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Kelly Austin

Abstract

Many developing nations struggle to provide adequate care for their mentally ill. Mental illness is predicted to affect 10 percent of a given population and left untreated can lead to a life of poverty and vagrancy. Many African countries, including Uganda, have strong belief systems in religion and spirituality which include the beliefs in evil spirits, witchcraft, and prayer healing. Religious and spiritual beliefs are often applied to perceptions of mental illness - evil spirits and witchcraft are seen as causes of mental illness and prayer is an acceptable method of treatment of mental illness. This study qualitatively assessed the beliefs surrounding mental illness by interviewing community members, health care workers, religious leaders, and witchdoctors. The purpose of the study was to generate an understanding of the mental health care system of Bududa, Uganda, to make recommendations of ways to improve the care of mentally ill people, and to direct future study in the region. We found that mental illness is highly stigmatized for its association with acts of violence and idleness and that there is little communication between the formal and informal systems of care even though community members are likely to be treated by both at some point in the progression of their illness. Recommendations for future action include implementing a sensitization program for community members and joining the informal and formal sectors of care in a common referral network.

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