Care seeking and beliefs about the cause of mental illness among Nigerian psychiatric patients and their families

Psychiatr Serv. 2012 Jun;63(6):616-8. doi: 10.1176/


Objective: This study examined treatment seeking by 219 psychiatric patients at a teaching hospital in Kano, Nigeria.

Methods: Patients or their families were interviewed about the types of mental health healers that patients saw before seeking conventional psychiatric treatment and beliefs about the causes of the illness.

Results: The length of illness before the psychiatric consultation was 4.5 years, and 99 (45%) respondents reported that patients had previously sought religious healing. A majority of respondents (N=128, 59%) attributed the illness to supernatural forces. Up to 68% and 75% of respondents who believed in a medical or genetic cause of illness, respectively, reported seeking a psychiatric consultation within six months of onset, and about 70% who believed in supernatural forces reported seeking psychiatric consultation five years after onset or later (p<.05).

Conclusions: Mental health planners should educate alternative mental health healers and integrate them in the care of mental illness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Culture
  • Faith Healing
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Nigeria
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*