International Journal of Medicine and Health Development

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The concept and attitudes of primary health care workers towards mental illness in rural Igbo Land of Nigeria

OEC Ekwueme, MN Aghaji


Aim: To assess of the knowledge, treatment preferences and attitudes of Primary Health Care (PHC) workers' towards the mentally ill.
Method: A descriptive study of all PHC workers in Igbo-Etiti LGA of Enugu State, Nigeria. Data was collected using a pre-tested, self-administered questionn-aire. A 5-point Likert scale ranging from “totally disagree = 1” to “totally agree = 5” was used to score their attitudes. Data was analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences and Programme for Epidemiologist software.
Results: Out of the 100 PHC workers studied, 41% on the average had incorrect knowledge of the causes of mental illness while 54% had correct knowledge. Evil spirit possession and native charm/juju were incorrectly mentioned by half of the respondents as causes of mental illness while alcohol/drug abuse, emotional problems and marijuana smoking were correctly implicated by more than 70% of respondents. Although 90% of the primary health care workers preferred hospital doctors/psychiatrists to treat the mentally ill, 49% and 47% would also recommend native/traditional healers and deliverance/prayer houses respectively. Their attitudes towards these patients in the order of decreasing negativity were mostly stereotypic, separatism, stigmatisation, pessimistic prediction, restrictiveness and least likely benevolence.
Conclusion: The PHC workers demonstrated a poor knowledge of the aetiology of mental disorders and a high negative attitude towards the mentally ill. It is recommended that these health workers should be retrained urgently in the interest of the mentally ill in their environment.

Keywords: Mental illness; PHC workers; knowledge; attitude; Nigeria

Journal of College of Medicine Vol. 11 (2) 2006: 125-129

AJOL African Journals Online