Original Research

Role of traditional beliefs in the knowledge and perceptions of mental health and illness amongst rural-dwelling women in western Nigeria

Ifeoma P. Okafor, Damilola V. Oyewale, Chidumga Ohazurike, Adedoyin O. Ogunyemi
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 14, No 1 | a3547 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v14i1.3547 | © 2022 Ifeoma P. Okafor, Damilola V. Oyewale, Chidumga Ohazurike, Adedoyin O. Ogunyemi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 March 2022 | Published: 29 September 2022

About the author(s)

Ifeoma P. Okafor, Department of Community Health and Primary Care, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Mushin, Nigeria
Damilola V. Oyewale, Department of Community Health and Primary Care, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Mushin, Nigeria
Chidumga Ohazurike, Department of Community Health, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Mushin, Nigeria
Adedoyin O. Ogunyemi, Department of Community Health and Primary Care, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Mushin, Nigeria


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Abstract

Background: Globally, the public health importance of mental health has gained significant attention in recent years. In Africa, many traditional belief systems impact the perceptions, attitude and management of mental illness. Women are usually the primary caregivers of mentally ill persons, but they have lower mental health literacy.

Aim: To assess rural women’s knowledge, perceptions and attitudes regarding mental illnesses and the role of traditional beliefs in their management.

Setting: Epe Local Government Area of Lagos State, Nigeria.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study with a total of 295 rural women recruited through a multistage sampling method. A pretested interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to collect data. Summary and inferential statistics were measured using Epi Info version 7. The level of significance was predetermined at 5%.

Results: A total of 253 questionnaires were adequately filled and analysed. Overall, just over one-third (35%) of respondents had good knowledge and only 26% had positive attitudes towards mental health and illness. About 45% reported that mental illness should first be treated in ‘the traditional way’, whilst 47% felt that there was no need for collaboration between orthodox and unorthodox healthcare for mental illness. Sociodemographic variables were significantly associated with knowledge (educational level p = 0.001) and attitude (marital status p = 0.001 and ethnicity p = 0.001).

Conclusion: Respondents had poor knowledge of and attitude towards mental health, and traditional beliefs played a role in their perception and management of mental illness. We recommend community-based health education programmes to improve knowledge and help-seeking for mental illness amongst rural women.


Keywords

mental health; knowledge; stigma; rural; Nigeria.

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