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Reading: Perceptions of Traditional Healing for Mental Illness in Rural Gujarat

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Original Research

Perceptions of Traditional Healing for Mental Illness in Rural Gujarat

Authors:

Julie Schoonover ,

Global Health Center Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY; Department of Medical Education, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY
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BA
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Samuel Lipkin,

New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY
About Samuel
BA
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Munazza Javid,

Global Health Center Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY; Department of Medical Education, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY
About Munazza
BA
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Anna Rosen

Global Health Center Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY
About Anna
MD
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Abstract

Background

Despite the significant toll of mental illness on the Indian population, resources for patients often are scarce, especially in rural areas. Traditional healing has a long history in India and is still widely used, including for mental illnesses. However, its use has rarely been studied systematically.

Objective

The aim of this study was to determine the perspective of patients, their families, and healthy community members toward faith healing for mental illness, including the type of interventions received, perceptions of its efficacy, and overall satisfaction with the process. We also sought to explore the range of care received in the community and investigate possibilities for enhancing mental health treatment in rural Gujarat.

Methods

We interviewed 49 individuals in July 2013 at Dhiraj General Hospital and in 8 villages surrounding Vadodara. A structured qualitative interview elicited attitudes toward faith healing for mental illnesses and other diseases. Qualitative analysis was performed on the completed data set using grounded theory methodology.

Findings

Subjects treated by both a doctor and a healer reported they overwhelmingly would recommend a doctor over a healer. Almost all who were treated with medication recognized an improvement in their condition. Many subjects felt that traditional healing can be beneficial and believed that patients should initially go to a healer for their problems. Many also felt that healers are not effective for mental illness or are dishonest and should not be used.

Conclusions

Subjects were largely dissatisfied with their experiences with traditional healers, but healing is still an incredibly common first-line practice in Gujarat. Because healers are such integral parts of their communities and so commonly sought out, collaboration between faith healers and medical practitioners would hold significant promise as a means to benefit patients. This partnership could improve access to care and decrease the burden of mental illness experienced by patients and their communities.

How to Cite: Schoonover, J., Lipkin, S., Javid, M. and Rosen, A., 2014. Perceptions of Traditional Healing for Mental Illness in Rural Gujarat. 80(2), pp.96–102. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.aogh.2014.04.013
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Published on 26 Jun 2014.
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