Perceptions and Beliefs about Mental Illness (Schizophrenia) among Adults in Zaare Community

Fiasorgbor A. Doris, Aniah A. Sylvia


The burden of mental illness like schizophrenia is increasing and is particularly severe for people living in rural communities. Ghana adopted a community-based rehabilitation (CBR) for persons with mental illness to address the problem comprehensively. However, negative attitudes towards the mentally ill, stigmatization and discrimination constitute a serious barrier to CBR. The objective of the study was to assess societal beliefs and perceptions about people with schizophrenia, among the adult population in a rural community (Zaare) in the Bolgatanga Municipality. The study used a mixed method where both qualitative and quantitative techniques were employed. A sample size was determined using a systematic approach. The respondents held fairly positive views about the mentally ill, despite a few negative authoritarian and socially restrictive attitudes and views. Though participants appeared to be knowledgeable about the possible physical, social and environmental causes of mental illness such as accidents and genetic factors, 94% of all participants thought mental illness could be due to witchcraft/evil spirits, and 66% felt that it could be a consequence of divine punishment. This is an indication that stigma and discrimination against the mentally ill were still widespread among the respondents. The widespread belief in supernatural causes is likely to act as a barrier to designing effective anti-stigma educational programmes and as a result frustrating the implementation of CBR. There is a need in the Bolgatanga Municipality and elsewhere to develop strategies to change stigma attached to mental illness at both the rural and urban community levels. This paper is one of the first to report to be made on attitudinal research on mental illness in the Bolgatanga Municipal area and the Zaare community.

Keywords: Perceptions, Beliefs, Attitude, Schizophrenia (mental illness), Zaare

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ISSN (Paper)2224-607X ISSN (Online)2225-0565

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