'The threads in his mind have torn' : conceptualization and treatment of mental disorders by neo-prophetic Christian healers in Accra, Ghana
CITATION: Kpobi, L. N. A. & Swartz, L. 2018. 'The threads in his mind have torn' : conceptualization and treatment of mental disorders by neo-prophetic Christian healers in Accra, Ghana. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 12:40, doi:10.1186/s13033-018-0222-2.
The original publication is available at https://ijmhs.biomedcentral.com
Background: In many low- and middle-income countries, faith healing is used alongside biomedical treatment for many health problems including mental disorders. Further, Christianity in Africa has seen much transformation in recent decades with the growth of charismatic or neo-prophetic churches whose doctrines include healing, miracles and prophecies. As such, many charismatic pastors have been engaged in faith healing for many years. Such faith healers form a significant portion of the mental health workforce in these countries, partly due to the limited number of biomedically trained professionals. In this study, we sought to examine the beliefs of charismatic/neo-Pentecostal faith healers about mental disorders, as well as to examine the treatments that they employed to treat such disorders. Methods: We interviewed neo-prophetic pastors who undertook faith healing, and examined their work relating to mental disorders. Ten pastors from eight churches in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana were interviewed using semi-structured interviews. Results: The data suggest that the pastors’ conceptualization of mental illness was generally limited to psychotic disorders. Their beliefs about causation were predominantly supernatural in nature although they acknowledged that drug misuse and road traffic accidents were also potential causes. The pastors’ expectations of healing also showed different perceptions of illness chronicity. Their diagnostic and treatment methods revolved around using prayer, prayer aids such as oils and holy water, as well as spiritual counselling for patients and their caregivers. However, they were not opposed to referring patients to hospitals when deemed necessary. Conclusion: We discuss the above results with emphasis on their implications for collaboration between biomedical and alternative healing systems in Ghana. In particular, we advocate a mutual understanding of illness perspectives between biomedical practitioners and faith healers as an important component for integrating different health systems in Ghana.