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Psychiatry in Africa: the myths, the exotic, and the realities

O Gureje


Information regarding the occurrence and nature of mental disorders in Africa is still grossly limited. For many years, anecdotal
reports and personal views, many of them based on very limited data, prevailed. Subsequently, many early studies were based on
clinical samples and thus limited in generalizability. These factors led to a number of myths about mental disorders among Africans.
In this short review, some of these myths are examined in the light of current information. It is observed that sufficient information
probably exists to discard some old myths while some other current views, even though suspect in regard to their validity, await
further exploration. It is concluded that while some racial differences may have been mistaken, there nevertheless remains the
possibility that some unique features of psychiatric and behavioural disorders in Africans offer the prospect of advancing our
knowledge in regard to etiology and possible interventions.

Keywords: Africa, Psychiatry, Myths, Research

> South African Psychiatry Review Vol. 10 (1) 2007: pp 11-14

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eISSN: 1994-8220