Mental health literacy: conceptions and attitudes towards depression and schizophrenia among African residents of the eThekwini District Municipality.
Nzama, Nolwazi Sizakele Knowledge.
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While South Africa has made observable efforts to incorporate mental health interventions and infrastructure in urban areas, the observed improvements in well-resourced regions have not translated into townships and many under-resourced areas. Lack of interventions and mental health infrastructure are among the biggest challenges faced by individuals living in townships and under-resourced regions. This study aimed to identify perceptions of mental illness, in KwaMashu and Umlazi, in the eThekwini Municipal District of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. An adapted health literacy questionnaire by Jorm (1997) was used to collect data from 266 participants from KwaMashu and Umlazi townships. Qualitative data was analyzed through thematic analysis, while quantitative data was analyzed through chi-square and ordinal logistic regression. This study found that most eThekwini township dwellers perceived mental illness as a result of disharmony between the physical and spiritual realms. This may be ameliorated through seeking assistance from individuals equipped to practice as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual, such as diviners, herbal healers and faith-based healers. Out of the participants from Umlazi (58.4%) and KwaMashu (41.6%) who were able to identify some form of mental illness, such as stress and depression, none of the participants could identify the symptoms as relating to schizophrenia. Furthermore, participants living in Umlazi (60.7%) and KwaMashu (39.3%) perceived individuals living with mental illness as dangerous. In conclusion, this study calls for improvements of mental health interventions, particularly those directed to township dwellers. Furthermore, there needs to be more emphasis on disseminating knowledge of the available resources to identify and treat mental illness.