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Exploring the indigenous African worldview of mental illness, psychological well-being, and traditional healing systems amongst the rural Xhosa-speaking of the Eastern Cape.

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Psychological maladjustment is conceptualised diversely over social and religious gatherings, additionally the views of dysfunctional behaviour that are held in different contexts and cultures; play a significant role in the treatment sought and the reaction to the treatment. Black people in South Africa such as Xhosa, Sotho, Zulu, Tswana and many others, draw their insight from various perspectives, and these perspectives inform their conceptualisation regarding psychological instability. The findings in this study revealed that psychological illness in the Xhosa community is conceptualised differently to the Western conceptualisations. The view of psychological maladjustment held by the Xhosa people impacts the kind of treatment looked for, with the decision of treatment frequently being indigenous healing. Besides the social convictions which make indigenous healing the principal alternative for treatment, financial status, and the expense of psychological care were likewise highlighted by most participants as one of the factors that hinder help seeking. The findings of the current research also suggest that there is a strong link between the aetiological beliefs of the participants and their conception and understanding of mental illness. Furthermore, the majority of participants have a more African orientation to the understanding of mental illness, were they mostly believe the cause of psychological abnormalities to be more related to African traditions. Nonetheless, the results also show that the participants do endorse a Western orientation to the aetiology of mental illnesses. Some participants believed that psychological challenges can be caused by social factors such as drug and alcohol abuse; dysfunctional families; poverty and unemployment. On the other hand, participants suggested that traditional healers play a significant role in the treatment of mental illnesses. Furthermore, the results suggest that traditional healers offer an alternative form of intervention especially in rural areas were most people do not have easy access to mental healthcare institutions and the necessary resources for psychological wellbeing.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.