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Psychiatr Serv. 2012 Jun;63(6):616-8. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201000343.

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

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Bayero University, P.M.B. 3011, Kano 234, Nigeria. drchikan@yahoo.co.uk



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


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.


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).


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

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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