The prevalence, classification and treatment of mental disorders among attenders of native faith healers in rural Pakistan
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Background: Although native faith healers are found in all parts of Pakistan, where they practice in harmony with the cultural value system, their practice is poorly understood. This study investigated the prevalence, classification and treatment of mental disorders among attenders at faith healers. Method: The work of faith healers with 139 attenders was observed and recorded. The mental status of attenders was assessed using a two-stage design: screening using the General Health Questionnaire followed by diagnostic interview using the Psychiatric Assessment Schedule. Results: The classification used by faith healers is based on the mystic cause of disorders: saya (27%), jinn possession (16%) or churail (14%). Sixty-one percent of attenders were given a research diagnosis of mental disorder: major depressive episode (24%), generalized anxiety disorder (15%) or epilepsy (9%). There was little agreement between the faith healers' classification and DSM-IIIR diagnosis. Faith healers use powerful techniques of suggestion and cultural psychotherapeutic procedures. Conclusions: Faith healers are a major source of care for people with mental health problems in Pakistan, particularly for women and those with little education. Further research should assess methods of collaboration that will permit people with mental health problems to access effective and culturally appropriate treatment.
KeywordsMental Health Health Problem Mental Disorder Mental Status General Health
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