Accepted Paper:

has pdf download Madness, medication and miracles: family, state and community approaches to the control and cure of people with severe mental illness in rural Ghana  

Author:

Ursula Read (Kings College London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the discourse of 'mental health crisis' in Ghana and its impact on state provision of psychiatric services. It contrasts the limited success of psychiatry with a proliferating imaginary of miraculous healing which fuels the continued use of religious healers for the mentally ill.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the interaction of social responses to mental illness in Ghana enacted through popular stereotypes, psychiatric services and religious healing, with the intimate household experience of such illness. Psychiatric institutions were established by colonial authorities in response to a perceived crisis: an increase in mental illness in a modernising society. Catastrophising discourses continue to inform responses to mental illness drawing on stereotypes of the madman as violent and anti-social. African religion, Christianity and Islam, and its association with cannabis and rebellious youth, place mental illness within a moral frame and maintain practices of control and chastisement. However the experience of severe and relapsing mental illness within the family necessitates a creative negotiation with and against the cultural stereotype. Psychotropic medication is often only partially effective, whereas churches and shrines offer solidarity within communities of suffering and hope for a cure inspired by a spiritual imaginary of miraculous healing.

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Crisis and resolution: imagination and the transformation of psychiatric care