Perceptions of mental illness among Muslim general practitioners in South Africa
AbstractBackground. Mental health literacy on the part of medical practitioners is an important component of mental healthcare. General practitioners (GPs) are typically the first doctors consulted by a person who is ill. Exploration of their perceptions regarding mental illness, aetiological issues and treatment is important.
Objective. To investigate perceptions of mental illness in a sample of 10 South African Muslim GPs (five male, five female) in the Lenasia area (Johannesburg, South Africa).
Methods. Using a qualitative approach, semi-structured interviews were conducted with each GP. The questionnaire encompassed 37 questions relating to the context in which the GPs practised, perceptions of mental illness, understanding of religion and culture, and treatment of mental illness (including aspects of spiritual illness). Thematic content analysis was used to analyse the data.
Results. Six dominant themes were identified, namely GPs’ understanding of mental illness and its causation; stigma, secrecy and somatisation; the beneficial effects of religion in mental illnesses; perceptions of spiritual illnesses; collaboration with traditional healers; and collaboration with psychiatrists and psychologists.
Conclusion. Greater awareness regarding the stigmatisation of mental illness is needed. Furthermore, it is important that healthcare professionals have an understanding of religious and cultural taxonomies of illness and the use of traditional healing as a mode of treatment. Participants identified a need for increased collaboration between healthcare professionals, including traditional healers.
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