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Int Rev Psychiatry. 2010;22(6):589-98. doi: 10.3109/09540261.2010.536150.

Common understandings of women's mental illness in Ghana: results from a qualitative study.

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University of Ghana Medical School, Korle-Bu, Ghana.


Despite the high rates of depression and anxiety disorders amongst women, the mental health of women is a neglected area, particularly in Africa. This study sought to explore what key stakeholders perceive as the main causes of mental illness in women in Ghana. Using qualitative methods, 81 semi-structured interviews and seven focus group discussions were conducted with 120 key stakeholders drawn from 5 of the 10 regions in Ghana. The analysis was undertaken using a grounded theory approach. Respondents attributed mental illness in women to a number of causes. These included women being the weaker sex, hormones, witchcraft, adultery, abuse and poverty. Explanations could be clustered under three broad categories: women's inherent vulnerability, witchcraft, and gender disadvantage. The way in which women's subordinate position within society may underpin their mental distress needs to be recognized and addressed. The results from this study offer opportunities to identify how policy can better recognize, accommodate and address the mental health needs of women in Ghana and other low-income African countries.

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