Burden of mental illness on family members, caregivers and the community

  • Z. Nyati
  • M. B. Sebit

Abstract

Objective: To determine the burden of mental illness in the family/caregiver and the community.
Design: A cross-sectional descriptive study.
Setting: Rehabilitation centres, community day centres, resettlement villages and in the community in three provinces (Harare, Bulawayo and Masvingo), Zimbabwe.
Subjects: A sample size comprising sixty six care-givers and 126 patients were consecutively interviewed for the study.
Results: The care-givers had a mean ± s.d. age of 48.8 ±15.7 years. The majority were females (80.3%), married males, 76.9% (p=0.073), unemployed females, 94.3% (p=0.0004) and parents of the patients accounted for 51.5%. Many respondents believed that the cause of mental illness was witchcraft (31%), they experienced financial constraints (63.6%), and spent a lot of money on food (56.1%). Patients were younger than their caregivers, with a mean ± s.d. age of 37.7 ± 12.8 years and mostly on medications (91.3%).
Conclusion: The caregivers were mainly women and unemployed, whereas patients were mostly male. Caregivers were faced with multiple problems, but they were more tolerant to patients' behaviour than the community at large.
(East African Medical Journal: 2002 79(4): 206-209)
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