Mental Health and Cultural Beliefs
QX Nobin, Pietermaritzburg – In terms of different cultural outlooks, there seems to be little consensus on mental disorders and their treatment.
The worldwide deinstitutionalisation of mental hospitals began with the discovery of certain psychiatric drugs.
In South Africa, ethnic mental health began in the homelands and ethnic-racial suburbs. Very little of specific cultural psychology and psychiatry took place—the main therapy being biological psychiatry and ECT.
Cultural orientation in psychiatry came in the wake of the Black Consciousness Movement here, the view being we as ethnics should not be seen to be cooperating with the political philosophy of the white state.
About this time (1972) a pertinent book, Christian Counselling and Occultism by German Lutheran Dr KE Koch, was written, suggesting that while there are real cases of biological schizophrenia, in some cases there can be a “concordance of biological schizophrenia with parapsychic phenomena”.
Dr Koch cautioned against over-demonising the client or advancing an over-hasty demon theory.
Other Dimensions to Mental Health
In the United States, physician Dr Larry Dossey (Healing Beyond the Body) wrote of the role of religious practice and prayer in health; and described non-local conciousness as being unconfined to the brain and body, spread infinitely throughout space and time.
British psychologist Dr Richard Bentall suggested there are “normal cultural hallucinations”. He observed and studied traditional healers in East Africa and refuted the strict line of sane to insane in biological psychiatry.
Bentall said no clear distinction exists between those diagnosed with mental illnesses and the “well” and questioned what this meant for drug therapy.
It appears, therefore, that our psychiatry curriculum is outdated.
Also, rehabilitation and inclusiveness have serious roles to play.
We see dependence on the disability grant system, which just maintains the client as mentally ill.