Madness in East Africa: narratives of spiritual healers in Kenya
Paper short abstract:
Spiritual healers in Kenya were asked how they deal with psychoses. They named physical, psychological and social causes. Most important were spiritual causes and witchcraft. The question is if such diverse cultural etiologies can be summarized in one worldwide classification system.
Paper long abstract:
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than the majority of the population in Africa use traditional medicine. And it is mostly the spiritual healer, who is able to deal with psychoses from the point of view of many Africans, because psychoses are very often related to spirit possessions. To advocate intercultural exchange, spiritual healers in Kenya, East Africa, from different ethnic groups were asked how they deal with psychoses. Because the term psychosis was not common to all interviewed healers, the more colloquial term madness was used throughout the field research, which was understood by every healer. The descriptions of the symptoms showed many similarities to western medicine and comparative cultural studies and most closely resembled psychoses from the schizophrenic group. And as in Western medicine the spiritual healers described a multifactorial etiology. Almost all spiritual healers named physical, psychological and social causes. Still most important and in contrast to Western medicine were spiritual causes, like spirit possession, and witchcraft. Depending on the etiology were the different treatment options. The narratives of the spiritual healers were quiet heterogeneous and will be presented in the panel. Furthermore a transfer to classification systems like ICD-10 or the DSM -V, based on an Euro-American culture, has significant limitations. One's own cultural limitations should always be considered before attempting to classify disease phenomena from other cultures. And it is to be questioned if such diverse cultural etiologies and treatment options can be summarized in one worldwide classification system.
Collaboration between psychiatry and anthropology: nosological and etiological challenges